To set the scene, we wanted to find out if there were differences in national approaches to working from home. During lockdowns specifically but also across the whole of the past 12 months, many governments have encouraged people to work from home whenever they can. Our findings?
The UK had the highest proportion of people working 100 per cent remotely during the pandemic, followed by the Netherlands and then Sweden. In France, meanwhile, more than half of respondents said they still worked mainly from the office.
What the majority of people want, according to our survey, is a mix of at-home and in-office work in the future. Very few people – just 15 per cent – actually want to spend every day in the office going forwards. But they are also realists, and 83 per cent of respondents expect a return to the office in some capacity soon – ideally for around three days a week, they say. The much talked-about new 'hybrid' way of working seems to be on its way.
It's no great surprise, perhaps, but lots of people rather like not having to commute. Our survey showed that 32 per cent of people saw the main benefit of working from home was that they didn't lose endless hours in traffic jams or stuck on trains every day.
The other main attraction, they said, was more flexibility over their working hours – 30 per cent named this the biggest plus.
Among the challenges posed by remote working, two of the biggest issues were missing colleagues and encountering difficulties in separating work and home life. Not having access to a printer was named among the other concerns.
In fact, 34 per cent of respondents think they need to make some changes to their home to make work a little easier. These include investing in new hardware such as printers, screens or other IT devices, and also reconfiguring a room or space to make it more suitable for work.
Unsurprisingly, people who work from home print less than when they are in the office and someone else is footing the bill for ink and paper. What was interesting to see, however, was that younger people (in the 18-24 age group) tend to print more than older employees.
The documents that are most commonly printed out are invoices, reports and contracts. It seems that while many things can happily be checked on screen, some important documents still benefit from being printed out.
Working from home might be appealing to millions, but buying your own work supplies is something no employee wants to do. Unfortunately, our survey showed that only 12 per cent of at-home workers had copy paper supplied to them by the companies they work for. As a result, they have to buy their own – 27 per cent do so online, while 24 per cent pick up their copy paper in the supermarket.
Stora Enso's premium brand Multicopy scored reassuringly well when it came to name recognition – not surprising, perhaps, when 19 per cent of respondents said that print quality was one of the most important attributes of the printer paper they bought.
The biggest driver was price (20 per cent), while further down the list came ease of purchase (17 per cent); sustainability and pack size (both 15 per cent) and, finally, brand (14 per cent).
The biggest surprise was how polarising sustainability was. UK respondents thought it the least significant factor, while Germans said it was the most important.
The pandemic has – and continues to – change the world, and many companies are now trying to ensure that when employees do work from home they are properly supported. But it's not just emotional support they need. The ability to work effectively at no extra cost to the employee is an important part of the working from home experience, too.