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UVM researcher says many prefer telecommuting

(WCAX)
Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 5:46 PM EDT
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A new University of Vermont survey says telecommuting could be here to stay if workers have their way. But while many say they want to keep working from home, some say they can't wait to get back in the office.

"It's very easy for the work we do to work from home. I mean, I could work on a beach if I wanted to, but I wouldn't really be doing work, I'd be sitting on a beach," said Eric Axelrod with Pinnacle Search Professionals.

"I've enjoyed the flexibility of working from home. Certainly a lot of home projects got done the past few months, but I think I miss the comaraderie of working with my colleagues and that daily interaction with all of them," said Matt Gleason with Goldman Sachs.

The flexibility to work wherever and whenever you want is part of the problem for some. "Working from home, I'll go out and mow the lawn in the middle of the day rather than doing my work. When I'm in the office, I'm doing my work, I'm getting my work done, I put my head down. I feel that unless you're really disciplined, you just don't do as good a job," Axelrod said.

On the other hand, a majority of the more than 600 participants in the UVM survey say they've developed that discipline over the last few months. The sampling does not paint a full picture of the population, as anyone was welcome to respond -- both employees and employers. More than half say they expect to work from home at least one or two days a week once their company's office space reopens and daily life returns to a relative normal. More than two-thirds say they want their employers to establish policies and programs to make that even easier.

"People like working from home and want to do more of it," said Richard Watts with the Center of Research on Vermont, the group behind the survey. He says the data is clear -- a lot of people feel more productive at home. "What we're finding in this moment is employers are actually discovering that it does work to have their employees telecommute and telework more."

Respondents say working from home is also better for their mental and physical health, giving them more time with their family and less time on the road. Still, some say there's nothing like collaborating and communicating with coworkers in-person rather than through a computer screen.

"I feel, like in business, you need to share information and learn from each other," Axelrod said.

"It's good to be back in downtown Burlington," Gleason said.

Watts says working from home could also help Vermont reach its carbon footprint goals, as a majority of the state's greenhouse gas emissions come from individual commuters. Many say that's enough of a priority to push for people to stay put.

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