WFH experiences vary according to race, gender and age

About 51 percent of respondents in an Ipsos study find it more stressful to work from home.

Research conducted by global research organisation Ipsos has shown that gender, race and age groups in South Africa have different experiences of work from home (WFH).

In general, women respondents felt more important when working from the office, and said that while WFH enhanced trust, they tended to take more frequent breaks and struggled with routine and other commitments, while saying that tasks took more effort.

In contrast, male respondents said WFH meant more time spent in meetings, with inadequate communication between teams making teamwork more difficult. They also experienced difficulty in keeping teams motivated when working from home and maintained that completing tasks took more time.

Less than a third (29 percent) expressed a preference for WFH, while about half (51 percent) find it more stressful.

“We could also see higher churn within the workforce as employees lose their organic connection to colleagues and the business culture, and experience a loss of motivation, feelings of isolation, lower morale and stunted career development,” Stella Fleetwood, service line lead at Ipsos said.

The most significant differences in the data statements were:

  • More frequent interruptions: Females (46 percent), males (51 percent),
  • Better work-life balance: Females (49 percent), males (56 percent),
  • WFH requires more effort: Females (44 percent), males (50 percent)
  • Domestic chores and errands: Females (69 percent), males (66 percent).

Views on WFH also differed across racial lines, according to Stella. “Our research revealed that Indian respondents had lower job satisfaction with WFH, were concerned that WFH negatively influenced their career growth and found it difficult to advance their careers while also having a negative impact on job security and their relationships with managers.”

Black respondents said they were less motivated, had more interruptions and had more challenges in promoting their business. This, according to Stella, could be related to lower availability to internet access amongst this group.

White respondents, however, said WFH provided a better work-life balance and that they had more time for home chores and to run errands, while coloured respondents in general found team collaboration challenging.

“The 18-28 age group reported more distractions and interruptions (60 percent), and believed they were not disciplined enough to work from home, while the 30-44 age group believed it enhanced trust but that they felt more important working from the office. The 45-55 group finds it easier working from home,” Stella said.

She added, “Companies considering a permanent or semi-permanent switch to a WFH policy should take particular note of this research. It shows companies risk losing competitiveness as productivity could potentially slump, employees can become less motivated, cohesion of teams is eroded and managers struggle to keep their finger on the pulse.

“While many respondents said they preferred the flexibility of working from home, it’s quite clear that their performance can suffer, and teamwork, especially, becomes much harder.

“Executives should be more considered in understanding what employees are experiencing while working remotely. This way of working does not necessarily mean better work-life balance, or a more engaged, more motivated workforce,” Stella said.

“Permanently working from home could be putting productivity, corporate culture cohesion and business growth at risk.”