Many welcome post-Covid remote working, but some employers remain wary

Many workers in Malta have welcomed a shift to remote working following the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, but a survey suggests that employers may remain more wary of the practice.

PwC Malta carried out a survey of 850 workers to assess what it termed as the “Covid-19 remote working experiment.” Most of those surveyed – 61% – had never actually worked remotely before, and only 3% used to work remotely every day.

But the pandemic brought about a monumental shift as many employers were left with no option but to allow for remote work wherever this was possible: the survey found that 71% now worked remotely every day. Only 3% continued to work on-site despite being able to work remotely, while another 5% could not carry out their work remotely because they worked in sectors such as retail or healthcare.

And a sizeable proportion of remote workers – 44% – found that their productivity actually increased outside of the office.

Perhaps as a result, 31% reported that their employers became less hesitant about remote working. While a further 52% remained open to flexible working arrangements, however, the remaining 17% were keen to get everyone back to working on-site as soon as possible.

Hopes for a permanent shift

Many respondents expressed their hope that remote working would become a permanent fixture in their career, though for most – 51% – the ideal solution would be to split their time between working remotely and working in the office.

Among the downsides of working remotely on a permanent basis, respondents cited a lack of social interaction (34%), feeling detached from office (22%), limited communication (13%) and an unmanageable workload (9%).

Only 20% saw no downsides to working remotely, but 30% nevertheless expressed their preference for working remotely at all times. 19%, however, preferred working in the office.

Asked what they expect, though, respondents gave a different answer, with 35% expecting to work in the office at all times. This figure includes 22% of respondents who said that they would like to work remotely, but who would not be allowed to do so by their employers.

A further 37% expected to work remotely up to 2 days a week, a further 20% up to 3-4 days a week, while 8% expected to work remotely every day going forward.

Management’s need to adapt

As one may expect, employer wariness can stem from a lack of faith that employees would be working productively in the comfort of their own home.

This may have led to a more stressful situation for many respondents, with 46% stating that they were spending more time working remotely than they used to do on-site, as they felt pressure to prove they are working.

Many workers felt that management needed to trust remote workers more, and that there should be more consideration for a work-life balance, working hours and other commitments outside work. Additionally, they flagged the need for a working culture that did not overlook remote workers for promotions or professional development opportunities.