Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) surveys the Australian population to capture their sentiments and behaviours related to current economic and social issues
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Ongoing work-from-home negotiation converges (somewhat)
Workers and employers continue to navigate the balance of working from home and in the office. Over the past two years, employers have been asking for more time in the office, but workers have become used to the flexibility of working from home.
Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) survey data between April 2021 and June 2023 reveals that while disagreement over hours worked in the office and from home has narrowed somewhat, the wedge still remains large.
Australian workers and employers have become used to hybrid work
Almost all workers (94% in June 2023) would like to work at least part of their work hours at home, and 64% would like a hybrid arrangement where they work both at home and the office (Figure 1). Employers largely agree, with 60% of workers reporting their employers would permit hybrid work. This increased from 49% of employers permitting hybrid work in April 2021.
Employers are twice as likely as workers to want workers full-time in the office
While employers have ceded somewhat over the past two years to fully office work arrangements, dropping from 17% in April 2021 to 13.5% in June 2023, they are still twice as likely as workers to want workers in the office all the time (Figure 1). Workers want this arrangement 6.2% of the time. On the other extreme, over the past year, both workers and employers have converged to wanting fully remote about 25% of the time.
Worker and employer visions for the workplace have evolved differently
Workers and employers only agree 37% of the time on the number of hours spent working from home, and this has been constant for the past two years (Figure 2). In April 2021, 31% of workers reported they disagreed with their employers and would like to spend more time working from home than permitted. The disagreement goes the opposite way as well. About 22% of workers wanted to spend more hours in the office, even when their employer would let them work those hours from home. This difference widened in June 2023, where 40% of workers wanted to spend more time working from home. These patterns reflect the mismatch between what employers and workers envision for the workplace.
The wedge between workers and employers on number of days working from home has narrowed but is still large
Workers who want to work more hours at home than their employer will permit, want to spend two-thirds of their work week working from home (Figure 3). Employers would permit one-third of the work week working from home. This 35-percentage point gap represents 1.75 more days at home for a full-time worker. The gap has narrowed since April 2021, when workers wanted almost three-quarters of their work week at home, and employers would permit one-quarter (a 42-percentage point gap or 2.1 more days at home for a full-time worker).
One-quarter of employers offer flexible work arrangements, but workers want to be in the office more
In June 2023, nearly one-quarter of workers reported their employer would allow them to work more hours from home than they want (Figure 2). These workers would like to work from home 42% of the time (2.1 days per week for a full-time worker), and their employer would permit working from home 76% of the time (Figure 3). This gap in work arrangements between employers and workers has been about 34-36 percentage points over the past two years. This implies that these workers would prefer to spend the 1.75 more days (for a full-time worker) permitted by their employer to work from home in the office instead.
Many workers can perform their work tasks at home, with the past few years showing that workers can successfully perform their jobs without being in the office. However, many employers still would like their workers to be in the office more often than workers would like. The disagreement in working arrangements has narrowed over the past two years, with greater acceptance of hybrid arrangements, but is still wide among those who want more work from home. A full-time worker would like to spend 1.75 more days working from home than their employer permits. Still, roughly one-quarter of workers would rather spend time in the office, even when their employer offers more flexible arrangements. The negotiation over work arrangements has made progress over the past two years, but large gaps remain.
This Taking the Pulse of the Nation insight was authored by Professor Ragan Petrie, Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, 27 July 2023.
*This report uses survey responses from several waves of the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) survey, from April 2021 to June 2023. The TTPN survey was conducted bi-weekly through 2021 and then monthly from 2022 among a representative sample of Australians. The total number of respondents across the waves used in this report is 13,293, and of those, 4,685 are working and have tasks they can perform at home (60% of those working). The findings are based on these 4,685 responses.
**Beginning in April 2020, the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) was conceptualised and implemented by a group of researchers at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research. Each wave includes a set of core questions, as well as additional questions that address current and emerging issues facing Australians. The TTPN sample is stratified to reflect the Australian adult population in terms of age, gender, and location. In 2022, the Melbourne Institute and Roy Morgan formed a partnership to extend the running of the TTPN. The TTPN Survey uses a repeated cross-sectional design. If you are interested in adding questions to the survey or accessing the data, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© The University of Melbourne & Roy Morgan- Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, 2023. This work is copyright. The material may be reproduced and distributed for non-commercial purposes only, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgement of the source(s).