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    2019 Staples Workplace Survey: Work-life balance is most important to U.S. workers

    Posted on 12th Feb 2019 in Office Culture, Workplace Wellness

    A recent termination case in Germany provides an interesting look into employer-mandated telecommuting versus employee-chosen telecommuting. The State Labor Court decided on a case in accordance with Section 106 Industrial Code.

    An engineer was fired from his job after the plant he worked for shut down and he was ordered to work from home. But due to the nature of his work and equipment necessary to perform it, his home workspace was not set up for him to perform his duties. The Court said in its ruling that many workers do desire to work from home, but that does not give employers the right to order working from home, particularly in cases like this when the working from home would be very difficult if not impossible. The termination was ruled wrongful.

    The 2019 Staples Workplace Survey, released on February 12, not only emphasized flexibility as the top priority of U.S. and Canadian workers, but also the desire to work from home part of the week.

    Key Findings

    Many office trends, such as motorized desks and plants, remain popular both for convenience and health reasons. But the open workspace trend - less walls and dividers with cubicles - is not among the favorites for office workers. The survey, conducted by KRC Research on behalf of Staples, questioned 1,001 U.S. and Canadian workers who spend at least 10% of their weeks in office settings.

    More than half of workers (52%) said they disliked the open office layout because it creates too many distractions. Another 40% said their office was far too open and not conducive to productivity. Workers, however, did not directly advocate getting rid of the open office layout altogether. They simply desired more choice when it came to how and where work is performed.

    A vast majority of those surveyed (90%) said more flexible work schedules and conditions would vastly increase office morale. A majority (67%) also threatened to leave their current positions if flexibility became more restricted due to changing company policies. Other key findings showed a deep divide when it comes to wellness. Three in four (78%) workers said employees have a direct responsibility related to their health and well-being. But only 42% said their employer has a formal wellness program.

    Balance is the top priority

    The labor force participation rate peaked at 67.2% in the year 2000, the highest number in the last 30 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number has steadily and consistently declined since that time, and sits at 63.2% for January 2019. As the world has become more digital, it has become more difficult for people to separate work from life. Whether its staying logged into Slack on your phone or checking your work email at midnight, it feels like there's never a true day off. This balance is what workers yearn in the 21st century.

    Most workers (64%) said they telecommuted (worked remotely) part of the time in the past year. But most employers (67%) had neither a formal nor informal policy in place that addressed remote work. Researchers concluded that policies addressing work-life balance are not enough to make workers happy and productive. The traditional 8-to-5 Monday through Friday with a one-hour lunch setup is antiquated and does not address the reality of ever-changing worker needs. Companies that continue clinging to history will be left behind as the best talent is willing to sacrifice a little money for comfort at work.

    Employers have also embraced the concept of mental health days, as 92% of workers said their supervisors supportd them when they used these days off. Employers are failing people with disabilities however, as only 66% said their office meets their physical needs.

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