In our previous blog we looked at responses to our free text questions about positive and negative effects of changes to ways of working in response to the pandemic. In this blog we’ll consider these differences through a demographic lens.
We analysed one of the largest category of negative consequences which didn’t also feature in the positive responses, Communication/decision-making struggles through the demographic lenses of age and working arrangement. Communication/Decision-making struggles were mentioned more frequently by employees working primarily at home or in split home/work arrangements. They were also more frequently mentioned by younger respondents. Examples included difficulty communicating with other departments or leaders when working from home and difficulty in discussing or completing training while working remotely. This may be related to younger employees having less accumulated social capital and networks than older employees, along with more requirement to undertake regular training and development activities.
We used the same demographic criteria to analyse the group of respondents who did not identify any negative consequences of changed working arrangements in response to the pandemic. Changed working arrangements were more likely to be considered wholly-positive by older employees but working arrangements did not seem to impact on respondents’ perceptions.
We analysed the responses to the question about changes to ways of working that had positive effects and should be continued or developed further, through a number of demographic lenses. Working from home and Flexibility were both categories much more frequently assigned to responses by employees who worked from home or in split home/onsite arrangements than to those who worked in on-site work locations. The responses of employees with disabilities were also more frequently assigned to the “working from home” category than those of employees without disabilities, although disabled respondents less frequently mentioned flexibility as a benefit to be maintained than did employees without disabilities.
There were also differences in the frequency of mentions of working from home across age ranges, with under-25 year olds and over 65s less frequently citing this as a positive change than those aged between 25 and 64. For flexibility this was more pronounced as being mentioned as an advantage most frequently by those in the 35-44 age group, perhaps reflecting caring responsibilities in this age group. Customer-facing employees were less likely to have responses categorised as “working from home” or “flexibility” than those who do not customer-face, although we can expect that this is connected in large part to many customer-facing employees working in on-site work locations.
What does this mean for firms? When considering the consequences, both positive and negative, of future working models, organisations may need to consider the needs and experiences of different demographic groups: what works well for one group may not work so well for another, and a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to result in positive experiences across the board.