Comparing In-Office vs. Remote Employee Health

How does an employee's location and environment impact their happiness and satisfaction? We looked into different facets of worker satisfaction by surveying over 900 full-time employees who work in and out of the office. Here's what we found.
Comparing In-Office vs. Remote Employee Health

Seventy percent of the global workforce can work from home at least once a week, and more than half work remotely for at least half of the workweek. And there are plenty of advantages to working from anywhere: Remote employees report higher engagement, increased productivity, and boosted morale. In fact, in the U.S., the number of people working remotely increased from 39% in 2012 to around 43% in 2016 according to a Gallup study, and analysts expect this trend to continue. What analysts couldn’t have expected was the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the upward trend of remote workers to further increase as companies like Twitter and Shopify shift to permanent work-from-home operations.

But how does working remotely compare to in-office? To find out, we surveyed over 900 full-time employees about where they worked and how they felt about it. Read on as we explore whether in-office or remote employees are happier, where most remote employees get their work done, and the work environment’s effect on focus, eating, and fitness.

Inspiring positivity

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Over the last two decades, the conventional workspace has gone through some considerable revisions. For example, some workers no longer work in a cubicle; instead, they have an open-concept office with communal working spaces and recreational opportunities. Regardless of the floor plan, the quality of your work environment can have a tremendous impact on stress and productivity.

While teamwork might suffer — remote employees surveyed said they were less likely to feel they could easily collaborate with co-workers or feel valued for their efforts — remote employees were overall more satisfied with their jobs. Remote employees were nearly 18 percentage points more likely than in-office workers to say they enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of their work, followed by satisfaction with their work environment (over 14 percentage points) and happiness with their work situation (10 percentage points).

Remote employees were also 15 percentage points more likely than in-office workers to feel mentally healthy because of their work environment.

Positive perceptions

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When you work in an office, are you distracted by the people around you, or does this help you? Compared to 19% of remote employees, nearly 27% of in-office workers said their work environment negatively influenced their ability to focus.

Working remotely doesn’t always mean working from home, though. While over 79% of remote employees worked in a dedicated workspace or office at home, 27% worked from coffee shops, 24% from their cars, and 16% worked at a public library. Although public locations may be more limited now due to additional safety precautions put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability of remote employees to choose their work environment remains very much the same.

Considering where people can work from, going remote doesn’t have to mean working alone. Two-in-five remote employees reported working alongside someone during the workday, including family (47%), a co-worker (38%), or a significant other (33%). However, it is now important to keep social distancing in mind while deciding whom to work next to.

Eating on the job

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When asked about their eating habits at work, 38% of remote employees identified having healthy eating habits, compared to 31% of in-office employees. Additionally, respondents working in an office environment were over 19 percentage points more likely to suggest their work environment had a negative influence on their eating habits. Twenty-seven percent of in-office employees also admitted to gaining weight since they started their jobs, contrasted by 21% of remote workers polled. With diet-related diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease, being responsible for 90% of non-age-related hospitalizations from COVID-19, healthy eating habits are certainly something to take into consideration in the workplace.

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How does working at the office influence our eating habits? As we found, people working from an office were less likely to skip breakfast during the workweek and almost twice as likely to eat fast food during the workday. 

Making the time to work out

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The average person should work out between two and five days every week. And this likely means trying to fit in time for exercise during the workweek.

However, over 34% of people working in-office said their work environment negatively impacted their fitness. In contrast, 42% of remote employees said their work environment had a positive impact on their fitness level.

It’s advised to get up from your desk every 30 minutes to stretch or walk around, regardless of your work environment. While 39% of remote employees got up to stretch at least once an hour, in-office employees were more likely than remote employees to stretch once every 30 minutes.

Creating a healthy work environment

The environment that your workforce operates in is important, and can impact their physical and mental health. As we found, in-office employees were more likely to eat fast food, gained more weight, and were unhappier with their work environment. While employers can only set best practice standards for their remote employees, they are uniquely positioned to have an impact on those who work on-site.

If you want your employees to have the benefits and resources they need to be productive and maintain healthy lifestyles, Paychex HR services can help. Learn more about how Paychex can help by visiting us today.

Methodology and limitations

The data for this project were compiled via survey using the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. There were a total of 913 participants. 55.8% were in-office employees, while 44.2% were remote employees. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 74 with a mean of 37.8 and a standard deviation of 11.2.

For the graphic titled, “Feeling the Effects of Work,” participants were asked to convey their level of disagreement or agreement on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree.” For this graphic, the term “agree” represents both 4s (agree) and 5s (strongly agree).

For the graphics titled, “Change of Pace,” “Eating Habits During Work,” and “Keeping Fit Around Work Hours,” questions asking about influence were asked on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “negatively influences” and 5 being “positively influences.” The term “negatively influences” in the graphic refers to 1s (negatively influences) and 2s (somewhat negatively influences) being combined, while the term “positively influences” refers to 4s (somewhat positively influences) and 5s (positively influences) being combined.

The data were not statistically tested. Data was self-reported, which can introduce issues such as selective memory and exaggeration.

Fair use statement

You don’t have to meet us in the office to say you like the results of this survey. We would love to see these findings shared with your audience in any noncommercial capacity with the inclusion of a link back to this page as credit to our contributors and designers.

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