Working Virtually Keeps Everyone Safe and Productive

Business susceptibility to the global coronavirus crisis is putting a fresh emphasis on working away from the office. According to a new survey by Korn Ferry, respondents see no hindrance to their careers or resentment from colleagues who work at the office.

March 13, 2020 – Staying at home may be the best way to stay safe in these early days of the global coronavirus crisis, but it also happens to be the best way to get the most done at work. That is according to a new Korn Ferry survey of professionals regarding working virtually. The vast majority of respondents (88 percent) said they are more productive when they work virtually, and 84 percent said they actually work more when they don’t go into the office.

More than a third (38 percent) said they work virtually full time, with a third (33 percent) saying they work remotely one to two days per week. The majority (82 percent) said that when they work remotely, they work from home.

According to the survey, working virtually has become much more accepted, as 80 percent said their employer has become more favorable to remote workers in the last two years. Seventy-nine percent said working virtually does not hinder their career advancement and 78 percent say their colleagues who go into the office every day do not resent them for working virtually.

“The virtual work phenomenon is here to stay, and it’s only going to involve more people over time” said Jeanne MacDonald, president of global RPO solutions for Korn Ferry. “To be successful, virtual workers need to show that they can be productive anywhere, engage with their boss and teams and enter the workplace strategically. The more they are seen, the more successful they will be when working virtually.”

The survey showed that there are some drawbacks to working virtually. The largest percentage of respondents (37 percent) said the biggest obstacle to remote working is loneliness, followed by technical/connectivity issues (32 percent).

Achieving Work/Life Balance Sometimes Means Working Weekends

Even as some organizations ponder shorter official work weeks, more and more jobs are coming with the expectation, sometimes unspoken, that employees should be available at any time. Bosses may think they’re squeezing extra productivity out of their direct reports, but it’s that type of pressure that can depress employee engagement.

In one recent survey by LinkedIn, in fact, 80 percent of working adults say they feel increased job stress on Sunday nights. In one notorious example, the CEO of one firm said she texted prospective job candidates at random times on Sunday and ruled out those who don’t respond promptly.

“With solid access to the right tools and technology, along with regular interaction with colleagues – such as video conferencing or occasional in-person meetings – remote workers can and should feel productive and part of a team,” said Ms. MacDonald.

Survey Responses

The Korn Ferry global survey took place in January 2020 and garnered 753 responses.

How often do you work virtually?

Full time                                                                                              38 percent

3-4 days/week                                                                                    12 percent

1-2 days/week                                                                                    33 percent

Almost never                                                                                       17 percent

Do you feel working virtually hinders career advancement?

Yes                                                                                                      21 percent

No                                                                                                       79 percent

Are you more or less productive when working virtually?

More productive                                                                                  88 percent

Less productive                                                                                  12 percent

If you work virtually, do you feel like you work less or more?

Less                                                                                                     16 percent

More                                                                                                    84 percent

If you work virtually, where do you most often work?

Home                                                                                                  82 percent

Coffee shop                                                                                          2 percent

Shared space                                                                                         8 percent

In transit (cars, airports, trains)                                                              7 percent

Has your employer become more or less favorable to working remotely in the last 2 years?

More favorable                                                                                    80 percent

Less favorable                                                                                    20 percent

What’s the biggest obstacle to working virtually?

Background noise                                                                               0 percent

Being interrupted                                                                                9 percent

Being asked to do chores                                                                   5 percent

Getting distracted                                                                                17 percent

Loneliness                                                                                           37 percent

Technology/connectivity issues                                                          32 percent

How do you connect with your boss/office if you work virtually?

Regular check-in calls/video conferencing                                        53 percent

Planning for periodic facetime in the office                                        14 percent

Emails                                                                                                 27 percent

Texting                                                                                                  6 percent

Have you ever pretended you were working virtually, when actually you were “out having fun” at a baseball game, beach, golfing, etc?

Yes                                                                                                      11 percent

No                                                                                                       89 percent

Do your non-virtual working colleagues resent you for working virtually?

Yes                                                                                                      78 percent

No                                                                                                       22 percent


Related: Work-Life Balance Matters, But Does It Matter Most?

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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