High job demands lead to remote work – servant leadership and organizational identification make the workplace attractive

Poor well-being at work is associated with a desire to work remotely more than before. Correspondingly, job resources are linked to a willingness to work at the workplace. Young employees favour remote work while employees with children enjoy in-office work. A study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health brings new perspectives into the remote work discussion.
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Finnish Institute of Occupational Health press release, 24 May 2022

According to the study, the stress factors of work are increasing the employees’ willingness to work remotely. Stress factors that disturb well-being at work and the flow of work include the workplace’s conflicting roles, bureaucracy, time pressure and workload. 

“Many workplaces are now thinking about how to get their employees to the office. According to  our findings, It is also important to take a look in the mirror if people do not show up. The management of the workplace must develop the working conditions and leadership and invest in well-being at work,” says Research Professor Jari Hakanen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.   

According to the study, poor well-being at work is associated with a desire to work remotely more than before.  

“Supervisors should acknowledge the fact that the symptoms of job burnout and workaholic tendencies are a possible cause for the increased willingness to work remotely. They should be interested in the matter and talk with people about how they are doing and why they want to work from home and what should be improved,” Hakanen continues.   

Management can affect the pull factors of the workplace.  

If the workplace provides so-called job resources, employees will not want to work remotely as much and have a positive attitude towards hybrid work. These resources include, for example, the ability to influence their own work, servant leadership, fair practices of the workplace and organizational identification  with the workplace and the supervisor.  

“If an organization wants its employees to return to the workplace, it should study the resources and practices of the workplace. The research results provide supervisors tools to think about how they can increase and improve the pull factors,” says Specialist Researcher Janne Kaltiainen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.  

The survey was carried out in seven workplaces in the autumn of 2021, when national or regional recommendations on remote work had been in place for some time and many workplaces were experimenting with various forms of hybrid work. There were a total of 4,176 respondents. 

“We have been through some exceptional times. We do not know what workplaces will become if people do not meet and interact with each other. It may decrease commitment. What will happen to creativity, innovation and communality?” asks Kaltiainen.  

Age and family situation affect how favourably remote work is viewed. 

In addition to well-being and working conditions, the employees’ selections are affected by their family situation and age.  

Less remote working was preferred by employees with children living at home.  The demands of a home environment with children might affect the flow of work when working remotely. 

Young age is associated with a desire to work remotely more than before. This observation might be explained by familiarity with remote work, the smaller percentage of people with children in the age group and poorer well-being at work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“There might be a vicious circle here. When people feel worse, they want to stay home, even though meeting colleagues face-to-face might do them good. Staying in one’s comfort zone and saving time and energy might make people act in a way that does not support their well-being and working in the best way,” says Hakanen.  

Opinions on the desire to work remotely were split in the study. The majority wanted the chance to work remotely, but less than one fifth wanted to work remotely full time. The previous ‘Miten Suomi voi?’ (How is Finland doing?) study showed that, on average, well-being at work was better in hybrid work.  

“We encourage everyone to talk about the matter and agree on the best ways to combine in-office and remote work. It is also important to consider the fact that the employees’ wishes may be affected by the current working conditions and their own well-being, age and family situation,” says Researcher Anniina Virtanen.  

Learn more about research results in the summary: Why do people prefer in-office or remote work? Observations from the Resilient employees in changing work life project (in Finnish):

 

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