Jessica Goodfellow
Feb 1, 2021

Agency staff prefer remote work, despite working longer hours

Report finds that remote working doubles the time that agency staff can spend in deep, uninterrupted work and leads to a healthier workforce. Despite this, 15% of agency leaders are resistant to offering a permanent remote work policy.

Agency staff prefer remote work, despite working longer hours

The vast majority of agency staff want their employers to offer a permanent remote work policy once the pandemic has eased, as they report feeling healthier and more productive when working from home despite clocking longer hours, according to a global survey.

The productivity survey from resource planning app Float found that an overwhelming 98% of agency employees want their workplace to adopt a permanent remote work policy. The largest share (41%) prefer a partially remote policy, in which everyone works a set two to three days in the office and the rest remote, followed closely by a remote-first option (40%), in which everyone can work remotely full time or in the office when they choose. A smaller proportion (17%) want their agency to go fully remote, and only 2% opted for remote working to be allowed only under special circumstances.

The results are based on responses from 203 agency staff globally, of which 43% work in digital product design or web development; 35% work in advertising, PR, media, or marketing agencies; and 22% work in other firms such as strategy consulting and IT services. The survey was between December 1 to January 18. 

Respondents cited several benefits to working remotely. Half reported feeling healthier working remotely versus in the office, with 27% feeling "about the same". Perhaps surprisingly, only 3% reported feeling "burnt out", despite two-thirds (66%) saying they are working longer hours remotely than they did in the office.

The most-cited reason employees said they are working longer hours at home was "finding it harder to switch off", selected by two-thirds of respondents. This was followed by an increase in meetings during remote working (cited by 40% of respondents), being more distracted (19%), and an increase in workload due to staff being laid off (10%). Overall, 50% of those surveyed said their teams are holding more meetings now than before they began working remotely.

Nevertheless, agency staff report having much more time of "deep work"—valuable work without interruption—per day than they do when working in the office. Where the majority (55%) of staff say they get through just two hours or less of "deep work" in the office, a significant 69% report achieving at least four hours of meaningful work a day while remote, with 37% spending at least six hours in the "deep work" zone.

Despite these benefits, some agency leaders remain resistant to offering permanent flexible work arrangements: 15% of agency owners, partners, and principals said they would prefer to offer limited or no remote work policy. Fortunately, the majority (61%) of agency principals are in favour of a remote-first or partially remote policy, with 24% open to going fully remotely.


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