A new survey has found that the majority of people in Barbados and the Caribbean prefer to work from home, but less than half of them believe businesses will actually adopt a work-from-home approach in the next 12 to 24 months.
The survey, Rethinking the Office – Attitude Toward Working Remotely in Barbados and the Region, was carried out in Barbados, Trinidad, St Lucia and Grenada in which some 500 people participated.
Terra Caribbean’s Chief Operating Officer Hayden Hutton said that based on the study “the office as we know it may be yesterday’s business model”.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, several employees were forced to work from home as countries implemented physical distancing measures.
Hutton said: “There is a resounding preference for the hybrid model where employees work a few days in the office and a few at home. For those companies that have proven the work-from-home model, rethinking their existing office footprint and space utilization will be key.
“Transitioning permanently to the distributed office is not quite so simple as management structures, performance management systems, including considerations for home office stipends, equipment and connectivity costs etc, must be addressed.”
An overwhelming majority of those surveyed – 92 per cent – said that in the longer term, the ideal environment should be a mixture of remote and office work.
Only five per cent said the ideal work environment would be fully remote, and three per cent said it ought to be fully physical.
When asked if they believed companies will actually embrace the concept of working from home in the next 12 to 24 months, only 40 per cent said yes, 27 per cent said they were not sure and 33 per cent said no.
Hutton said: “It would certainly seem the office market is at an inflexion point and we expect rental rates and new supply will plateau, at least initially until the new norm is established.
“Many are rethinking the concept of the office as more of a hub use by teams for engagement, collaboration and culture building in conjunction with remote working, rather than the place we must go to do our work every day.”
Of those surveyed, 86 per cent said they believed corporate culture will be the same or better with a work from home structure. But only 46 per cent said they believed coaching and mentoring would be effective; 40 per cent said it would be somewhat effective while 14 per cent expressed doubt.
On average, the respondents said they believe their office space could be reduced by about 49 per cent in a hybrid or fully work-from-home scenario.
While there was an overwhelmingly positive view on working from home in the Caribbean, Barbados and Trinidad had the most positive attitude toward this model, 84 per cent and 88 per cent respectively.
However, only 53 per cent of respondents in Barbados said they feel they were more productive working from home.
Of those surveyed, 55 per cent said they believed more companies were not adopting work from home approach because of tradition or old-school nature, 26 per cent said it was due to the nature of the business while 13 per cent said it was due to lack of available technology.
Coming out of the survey were several primary benefits and challenges to working from home. In Barbados, 59 per cent of the respondents said one benefit was having a flexible schedule, 57 per cent identified reduced commute time, 41 per cent said better work/life balance, 32 per cent said transport cost savings, 26 per cent said increased focus and productivity, 11 per cent said it was less stress and two per cent identified “other”.
In relation to challenges, 62 per cent said working from home resulted in family disruptions, 41 per cent said it resulted in social isolation, 39 per cent said their challenge was keeping a regular schedule, 29 per cent said having no dedicated workspace proved challenging while 18 per cent cited internet connectivity as a challenge.
Hutton said while the ability to work from wherever and whenever was an understandable benefit of working from home, a key hurdle to implementation for some employers will be the measurement of productivity in the remote environment.