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Working From Home In The Post-Epidemic Period (third survey)

(Third survey, February 2022 – March 2022, a summary of results on conditions and preferences for working from home today and in the future)

Authors: Assist. Jana Breznik; Assist. Prof. Dr. Gregor Čok; Sen. Lect. Dr. Mojca Foški; Assist. Dr. Gašper Mrak; Assist. Prof. Dr. Alma Z. Lamovšek

In February and March 2022, the Department of Spatial Planning, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geodesy, University of Ljubljana, conducted the third – and final – survey in a series of studies on working from home during and after the coronavirus epidemic. The survey was quite different from the previous ones since it was focused on the desires and possibilities of working from home in the future. We were particularly interested in how employees are coping in a period of social normalisation, the return to the physical workplace, and their (housing) options and preferences for working from home. The main focus of this questionnaire was on spatial conditions and possible changes in mobility as a consequence of the changed working patterns (and also the working environment). ​

As in the previous surveys (in epidemic periods 1 and 2), the distribution of the survey through personal and university channels proved to be an important factor in the implementation of the survey, which in turn influenced its results (the pool of respondents is predominantly from the public working sector).

The survey was fully completed by 787 individuals, of whom 512 (65.1%) were women, 268 (34.1%) were men and 7 (0.9%) did not wish to identify themselves (Figure 1). The largest percentages of respondents belong to the age groups 27-44 years (40.2%) and 45-64 years (45.5%), and accordingly, the most frequent status of respondents is employed, with 86.1%. The percentages are consistent with the 1st survey, which targeted the same target group (the 2nd survey was extended to the student population, so the underlying survey data are not fully comparable), indicating a relatively consistent sample of the respondent group. The employees (and self-employed) work predominantly within the quaternary sector (78.0%) and partly within the tertiary sector (20.1%). The primary sector is not represented in this survey, and relatively few respondents are employed within the secondary sector (1.9%). The results of the sectoral work distribution reflect how the survey was distributed (through faculty channels), which shows a marked predominance of the education sector (77.7% within the quaternary sector).

Figure 1: Percentage of respondents by gender

  • Female 65% 65%
  • Male 34% 34%
  • Other 7% 7%

n = 787

60.1% of respondents lived in urban areas (cities and towns) at the time of the survey. This category was followed by suburban settlements – 18.3% and rural settlements – 17.4%. Compared to previous surveys, this time we have covered a slightly larger part of the population of those living in urban areas. Regarding the type of dwelling, respondents most frequently stated living in single or two-apartment buildings (54.9%) and multi-apartment buildings (43.5%).

In terms of ownership, 85.9% of respondents live in owner-occupied dwellings (the respondent or someone in his/her household owns the dwelling). Only 13.6% live in rented dwellings (Figure 2). Despite the relatively low proportion of rented dwellings, this is still above the national average of 10.3% (SURS, 2021).

Figure 2: Proportion of respondents by ownership of the real-estate where they are residing.

  • Owner-occupied dwelling 85.9% 85.9%
  • Tenant dwelling 13.6% 13.6%
  • Other 0.5% 0.5%

n = 787

The majority of respondents, 79.2% of the employed (or self-employed), experienced working from home for the first time as a consequence of the country’s closure measures during the coronavirus epidemic. Only 7.3% of respondents had experienced working from home before this period (Figure 3). As the question could be answered with several different answers, the responses also show that although working from home started with the Covid-19 measures, it could be continued later based on a good experience, even if the workplace was no longer difficult due to the threat of Covid-19.

Figure 3: Work form during the epidemic

  • Working from home as a result of the measures 84,3% 84,3%
  • Work at home, where the respondent already has a registered activity 2,0% 2,0%
  • Work from home due to an agreement with your employer (independent of your COVID-19 status). 12,6% 12,6%
  • Working from home as a work practice before the coronavirus era 7,3% 7,3%
  • Work in a traditional workplace 9,2% 9,2%
  • Due to the epidemic measures, was unable to work 0,7% 0,7%
  • Sick leave, maternity leave, vacation, etc. 0,4% 0,4%
  • Lost his/her job 0,3% 0,3%

n = 696

Figure 4: Desire for a form of (home-based) work in the future (in %)

n = 772

We asked respondents (in addition to the employed and self-employed, students and the unemployed were also answering this question) about their preferences for working from home in the future. Only 21.8% of respondents do not want to work from home, while another 4.4% are employed in professions that (unfortunately) do not allow them to do so. The remaining 73.8% would like to continue working from home in the future. Most (62.2%) in a hybrid form – part of the week from home and part of the week at a regular location (Figure 4).

Surprisingly, employed and self-employed respondents who want to work from home estimate that on average 70% of their monthly work tasks could be done from home, but they do not wish to work at home that much. This percentage of tasks wished to be done from home is on average 58%. Among the employed respondents, 43.4% also have the support of their superiors to work from home (34.5% are not sure and 22.1% do not have such support).

Interestingly, working from home has become such an important factor that 32.4% of respondents would be willing to change jobs if they were offered better opportunities to work from home elsewhere.

The reasons for the high percentages of those who would like to work from home in the future are varied but are certainly influenced significantly by the experience of the past epidemiological period. Thus, we asked all those who have experienced working from home (except those who have a registered home-based activity) to rate what they consider to be the biggest advantages and disadvantages (in terms of space) of working from home. Of the options listed, the most important advantage of working from home was the reduced time spent travelling to work (52.4% of respondents ranked this aspect as very important – score of 7 on a scale of 1 – disagree to 7 – strongly agree, and 85.6% were positive about the reduced time spent). The answer is not surprising, as the average commuting time among the employed and self-employed respondents is 35 minutes (36 minutes among those who answered the question on the positive effects of working from home), while the median is slightly lower at 30 minutes (the same among those who answered the question on the positive effects of working from home). This means that as many as half of the employed or self-employed participants under normal circumstances spend more than 1 hour a day commuting to and off work.

Other major positive effects of working from home included the possibility to work at times when they would normally be physically absent (e.g. caring for a child/relative) and the ease of organising non-work related activities. More detailed percentages are shown in Figure 5.

Among the more frequent answers, which we did not anticipate but which respondents could have recorded if they wished, many cited greater flexibility in working hours as an essential advantage of working from home, as well as improvements in eating habits.

Figure 5: Agreement with statements on the positive effects of working from home (n = 620; 1 – strongly disagree, 7 – strongly agree)

n = 620

Among the (spatial) negative effects, most respondents perceived few problems with working from home. The highest proportion – 23.9% – perceive that working from home has blurred the boundaries between work and non-work spaces. 10.5% of respondents perceive pressure related to insufficient apartment size (due to increased space needs as a result of working from home). Taking into account all the responses in the top half of the scale (5, 6 and 7), the percentage rise to 25.8%.

Working from home also brings additional opportunities to change mobility. Of all those who normally migrate (spend more than 0 minutes commuting to work), the largest proportion – 50.3% – currently commute alone in a car – of those 45.1% (n = 275) indicate the possibility of changing their mobility, if they would be able (and willing) to work from home in the future. Among the “other” answers, the possibility of using public transport is also frequently mentioned, if it would be more developed and flexible. The percentage (45.1%) is based on responses reflecting activities and demonstrations of preparedness for (hypothetical) future situations and is therefore almost certainly exaggerated. Changes in mobility are, however, not only dependent on working from home, but also on other internal and external factors.

At the same time, studies from abroad also show that those employees who can work from home in a hybrid form (partly from home, partly physically present at the workplace) are on usual working days willing to commute larger distances (de Vos et al., 2019). Many future studies will have to be carried out on the actual ‘dispersion’ of the location of the homes of those who work from home. However, the response of our respondents can give us a preliminary insight into the situation. In fact, of those respondents who would like to work (in a hybrid form) from home in the future, 31.2% would be willing to accept a longer commute on days when they need to be physically present. Of these, most (47.3%) would be willing to drive between 15 and 30 minutes longer than at the moment, which in practice (assuming a maximum motorway speed of 130 km/h) could mean up to 65 km longer journeys.

Among the respondents who have the desire to work from home, we also wanted to know whether they would be willing to make major spatial changes to their home, leisure, etc. if allowed to work from home. Table 1 presents the proportions of responses (with a gradient, darkest vs. lightest, presenting the proportions of responses. For the majority of respondents (68.2%), being able to work from home is not a sufficient factor for them to be willing to change their place of residence. The proportion is much lower (at the expense of willingness to move) if only employees currently living in tenant dwellings are taken into account (29.1%).

The majority of respondents are also reluctant to buy a leisure facility or to make major alterations to an existing dwelling. In contrast, more respondents indicated that they would be willing to set up a suitable workspace or purchase the necessary equipment (34.1% of respondents would be willing to do so and 24.7% have already done so).

Figure 6: Overall assessment of the adequacy of work from home

n = 604

Among those who have the desire to move (irrespective of the availability of financial resources; n = 178), the most preferred type of settlement was a rural settlement (47.2%), followed by a suburban settlement (34.8%). At 80.3%, the undisputed most desirable housing type is the single-family house (preferably close to public open spaces and with a garden). The results are not surprising and only further support the Slovenian housing ideal of living in a house with a garden in a sub-urban or well-equipped rural environment (Uršič & Hočevar, 2008).

Among those who have the desire to buy a secondary, holiday home, the most frequently cited were properties in a holiday area, with many also specifying a location by the sea or in a mountainous area under other options. This is also in line with the municipalities which show the highest number of holiday homes. These are mainly located in the Gorenjska and Primorska statistical regions (Koderman, 2014).

The answers we have analysed indicate an interesting spatial dynamic in the future, which may be a consequence of the developing teleworking. The possibility of combining work and living, which many predicted several decades ago with the development of the first telecommunications tools and the internet (Mitchell, 1995; Mlinar, 2003), is now gaining more dimension and support in Slovenia. Such work may have both positive and negative effects on space in the future. It can influence mobility habits and the general decision to choose a certain type and location of residence, as well as work-life balance. Our research is therefore only the beginning of a period which we believe will have a greater impact in a few years or even decades.

Sources and literature:

de Vos, D., van Ham, M., & Meijers, E. (2019). Working from Home and Commuting: Heterogeneity over Time, Space, and Occupations. Working from Home and Commuting: Heterogeneity over Time, Space, and Occupations

Koderman, M. (2014). Razvoj počitniških bivališč v alpsko-jadranskem prostoru Slovenije. In K. Vodeb (Ed.), Trajnostni razvoj turističnih destinacij alpsko-jadranskega prostora (pp. 27–41). Založba Univerze na Primorskem.

Mitchell, W. J. (1995). City of bits: Space, place, and the infobahn. Institut of Technology; /z-wcorg/.

Mlinar, Z. (2003). Teledelo in prostorsko-časovna organizacija bivalnega okolja. Teorija in praksa, /dec, 1012–1039.

SURS. (2021). Naseljena stanovanja po tipu lastništva in vrsti stavbe, statistične regije, Slovenija, večletno. Statistični Urad Republike Slovenije.

Uršič, M., & Hočevar, M. (2008). Protiurbanost kot način življenja. Ars & Humanitas, 2(2), 225–228.

The research is financially supported by the Slovenian Research Agency within the research program P2-0227 Geoinformation Infrastructure and Sustainable Spatial Development of Slovenia.

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