US workers feel they know their colleagues better now remotely


23% of employees would also relocate if sanctioned by their company, a survey by Adobe finds.

Image: dragana991, Getty Images/iStockphoto

It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Distance, it seems, does too. A newly released survey finds that 42% of workers feel they know their colleagues better now versus when they were in the office. Of this group, 60% of parents admitted to feeling closer to fellow parent colleagues as they bond over homeschooling their kids and adjusting to working life as stay-at-home-working-parents, according to the survey by Adobe.

The survey also found that 73% of parents feel they are equally, if not more productive working from home.

Additionally, 23% of the 1,004 employed US respondents said they would relocate if their company allowed long-term work from home. By demographics, 37% of Gen Z said they would relocate along with 30% of millennials, and 17% of Gen X, the survey said.

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“We’re undergoing immense change right now in terms of how we work and how we connect with our colleagues and what channels we use to do things every day to move our projects and initiatives forward,” said Brian Glover, director of product marketing for Marketo Engage, of the impetus for the survey.

Some of those channels, like phones and email, have been in use for a long time, but others, like video conferencing are emerging and being adopted at a quicker rate than before, Glover said.

“In the face of COVID-19 there’s been a real ushering in of the digital era both in terms of how businesses are communicating with their customers and absolutely with how we are communicating with each other, so we wanted a deeper understanding of the impact on how [employees are] communicating and how it’s working,” he added.

One of the most surprising findings of the survey for Glover was the closeness people feel toward their colleagues right now.

“If you think about what it’s like to work in an office you have a lot of control over your personal life and what you share with your coworkers,” he said. “Obviously, there’s the proverbial water cooler.”

While people may have shared facets of their lives in the office, the virtual setting is providing greater insights about colleagues, he said. “Now I can see into your home; pictures of your family and children peeking into your office while you’re on a call and the … cat walking across your keyboard.”

Employees are striving for a work/life balance

The survey also found that Zoom fatigue is real—only 33% of respondent workers feel video conferencing is as productive as in-person meetings, while another 34% said they’re starting to experience video conference fatigue. Instead, 78% of workers are using email to connect with colleagues, while 56% prefer making phone calls, the survey found. 

Work/life balance remains critical as workers decrease the number of minutes a day they check email by 10% (352 in 2019, down to 315 in 2020), the survey found. To keep the work/life separation, 53% of workers said they are waiting until they officially start the workday to check email, compared to 48% in 2019.

Thirty percent of respondents said they never check work email outside of working hours.

Another significant finding was that as brands focus on providing better customer experiences, despite the rise of new channels and the use of multichannel communications, “email is still king—or queen,” Glover said. “It’s still the top channel used internally at the office and 66% of consumers prefer to receive email offers from brands.”

The survey also found that 93% of respondents feel brands are mostly striking the right tone during the pandemic, which Glover said was also surprising, given that “they have had to adapt quickly and continuously as the information we have evolves.” He said, “I have seen examples of brands taking missteps,” but believes the data shows they “really embrace having an authentic, transparent, and responsive tone in communications around COVID-19.”

Employee pain points

Some of the productivity challenges the survey revealed are that there are too many distractions at home (67%), especially for respondents who have young children (75%), Glover said.

Respondents also said they are not properly set up (47% overall, followed by 45% of parents).

Another issue that came up was the ability to get help from coworkers. Overall, 32% said it is harder now, including 34% of parents.

Glover said the surprise finding here was that 44% said they use text messaging to interact with coworkers. “It’s not what you’d think of as a work channel,” he said, but points to the urgency of needing to reach people when they’re not getting an email response.

Editor’s note: This story and headline have been updated to reflect the survey came from Adobe.

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