We would like to thank our partner Asana for providing us with this study on the topic of remote work. Because the Sastrify team works entirely remotely, we consider the following insights to be extremely exciting and worth sharing.
In 2020, an unprecedented global event fundamentally changed the way we work. Governments and businesses around the world instituted mandatory remote work protocols nearly overnight. This new work paradigm has changed the office construct as we know it. The dramatic, rapid shift has accelerated digital transformations as teams now grapple with navigating the transition from remote to distributed teams, many for the first time. As organizations look beyond these short-term adjustments, many are left wondering what’s next. What’s clear is that this unique moment in time is an undeniable catalyst for a massive transformation of where and how we work.
At Asana, we wanted to understand how habits changed during mandatory remote work protocols and how these transformations will continue to shape our future — from distributed teams to new norms and processes. The Anatomy of Work: Remote Teams survey evaluated the behaviors and attitudes of 5,140 full-time employees currently working beyond the office in Australia, Germany, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. Conducted by Censuswide, the findings underscore the impacts of remote work for employees and organizations while providing a window into what’s needed for teams to flourish in the new era of distributed work.
An overview of global findings
Shifting schedules, more breaks, and fewer meetings
The rapid shift from in-person to completely remote teams had a significant impact on employees across the world, and many found that their day looked very different than before:
- 59% of global employees were working different hours than their “normal” working day
- 53% took more breaks throughout the day; 23% took the same; 22% took fewer breaks
- 34% had fewer meetings; 30% had the same amount; 26% had more meetings
Collaboration from a distance
When remote working protocols came into effect, nearly two-thirds (62%) of full-time knowledge workers increased their use of collaboration tools with one in five (18%) using them for the very first time.
From work management platforms to messaging apps and video conferencing tools, companies across the world quickly embraced the potential of technology to keep teams connected and aligned while physically distant. Those that adopted work management tools, in particular, saw the benefits. Nearly twice as many employees using a work management tool felt more connected and supported by their manager (30%) than those who didn’t use them (17%). Additionally, 55% of those using work management software felt more productive, compared to those that didn’t (35%). They also benefited from fewer meetings, freeing up time for skilled work.
While many teams were quick to adopt new technologies, the majority of respondents were ill-equipped to navigate the rapid shift to working from home with many lacking the basic tools to be successful. In fact, over half of the respondents (53%) didn’t have a dedicated desk, PC/laptop, or reliable internet connection with 43% admitting to logging on from their kitchen tables, sofas, and even beds.
Diving deep: How Germany adapted to remote working protocols
More collaboration, a better work-life balance
During the remote working period, German workers modified their schedules the most of any country surveyed, with only 29% maintaining their previous schedule. This compares to 41% in the U.K., 46% in Australia and the U.S., and 47% in Japan. Additionally, more family time and a better work-life balance are positives that many German employees benefited from while working remotely. Only 35% found it difficult to switch off in the evenings - the second-lowest of all countries surveyed following the U.S.
In addition, German workers also found more time during the day to spend with their loved ones, with 62% blocking off time for family activities - the highest number of any country surveyed. The increased flexibility correlates with the fact that 65% of German workers increased their reliance on collaboration tools since transitioning to remote work, the highest of all countries surveyed.
Remote work challenges and a return to the office
The data also suggests that the transition to remote work was socially challenging for many German workers with 73% missing physical interactions and in-person conversations with their colleagues. While all countries surveyed experienced some level of difficulty disconnecting from work at the end of the day, German workers found it to be one of their greatest challenges of remote work, in addition to a lack of self-motivation and stress about the current health/economic situation. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that out of all countries surveyed, German workers were the most eager to get back to the office, with only 36% expressing a desire to continue remote work.
Diving deep: How the United Kingdom adapted to remote working protocols
Early risers and fewer meetings
Matching global trends, 59% of U.K. employees adjusted their work hours when remote working. Preferring early starts to late finishes, almost a third (30%) started their day sooner than they would normally, while 27% began working later. British workers also took advantage of the potential for remote work to increase focus time by cutting unnecessary meetings from schedules, with 36% holding fewer each week.
A nation of homeschoolers
With schools closed country-wide, 85% of U.K. employees with school-age children faced the new challenge of balancing childcare and full-time work - the highest of all surveyed countries. However, British respondents also signaled how remote working enabled them to balance work with family. Overall, the U.K.’s workforce increased their number of breaks in greater numbers than any other country, including 41% blocking out time to spend with loved ones.
Set-ups for success
A lack of preparation was a real pain point for U.K. workers. Globally, British employees were the least set up to work remotely, with more than two-thirds (67%) lacking a dedicated desk, PC/laptop, or reliable internet connection. With 79% missing the social side of work, the second-highest of countries surveyed after Australia, U.K. workers looked to maintain and build their connection with teams. To do so, 20% adopted collaboration tools for the first time and 63% of those already using such tools increased their reliance on them. This helped teams across the U.K. stay connected and aligned while juggling many different priorities.
Diving deep: How the United States adapted to remote working protocols
Managing work-life balance
Under remote working protocols, a quarter (25%) of U.S. respondents said they were working later and 30% said they were starting work earlier than usual. Many were confronted by the need to juggle work with other priorities, with 26% fitting work around other needs, such as childcare. Tracking with the global average, over half of all Americans (53%) also took more breaks throughout their working day. U.S. workers made adjustments to their schedules, shifting their approach to balancing work life and home life in the new world of distributed work. As a result, workers in the U.S. reported the fewest difficulties with switching off from work in the evenings of any country surveyed.
Embracing the right tools for the job
U.S. workers adopted new tools to aid the transition into a new working environment. 59% relied on collaboration tools more since transitioning to remote work and almost one-quarter (24%) embraced them for the first time, more than any other country surveyed.
Leadership that supports teams
Stress about the current economic and health crisis was the leading source of distraction for U.S. employees while respondents in all other countries cited a lack of motivation as their biggest source of distraction. Across countries, the significant increase in collaboration tool usage also coincided with an increasing level of support from their managers. 79% of U.S. workers said their manager was more supportive than before in managing and communicating work goals, higher than any other country surveyed.
With a workforce set up to work from home, many of whom still need to juggle child-care, businesses may decide that renting an office is an overhead expense they no longer need to prioritize. Another consideration for companies is sentiment about an eventual return to the office. Nearly half (47%) of the remote workers surveyed by Asana said they wanted to continue working remotely in the future.
Work management platforms like Asana and other collaboration tools play a key role in helping teams work efficiently both now and in the future. Despite a decrease in overall spending as a result of COVID-19, 54% of IT decision-makers plan on increasing their investment in collaboration applications. The findings in this report paint a picture of how workers around the world demonstrated their resiliency and ability to adapt to full-time remote work protocols in uncertain times.
Aided by the right technology, the workers we surveyed reflected on the positives, such as more time to spend with loved ones, better connections with colleagues, and increased support from managers. But with some struggling to disconnect and manage their schedules, there is an amplified onus on managers to spot burnout before it happens. As we transition back to business and adapt to the new world of work, businesses can take these learnings and apply them to a future where distributed teams thrive.