Getting to know our ‘Working from Home’ cohort

Author: Ashley Smith, Director of Research & Strategy

So one of the new business acronyms to enter our 2020 lexicon is ‘WFH’. 

This of course refers to ‘Work from Home’, a concept that, whether we like it or not, has probably found its way into most of our working repertoires in 2020, either on a small temporary basis or more large scale and permanent. 

Our own latest Mood of Australia Research reveals some striking statistics:

  • More than half of us now WFH in some capacity
  • With double the amount of people who WFH all the time
  • And 96% plan to continue to WFH in some capacity over the next 12 months

The Australian Financial Review has also recently reported that “about half of Australia’s workforce will work from home two days a week in the wake of the pandemic”. 

But what do we know about this large current ‘WFH’ cohort? What has been their experience? Do they distinguish themselves with any new or different behaviours? 

Most importantly, does the current and likely future growth of this segment present any key opportunities for Brands?

Say no more – we’ve dived into our Mood of Australia data to reveal the following!

Who are they?

With some representation across all generations and income levels, our WFH group does skew toward Millennials and Younger Gen Xers. They are also overall a higher income group and the majority have relatively young children (at least pre-teen) at home. 

What has been their Experience?

To date, most are happy with how this scenario is working out, often citing efficiency gains in their lives as key WFH benefits. The core of this is understandably less commute time and the ability to leverage this time ‘won’ in sorting those annoying household and administrative tasks that in normal circumstances are handled in the evening or weekends (when we want to actually relax).

And our own data might suggest that this WFH group is happier in general – 37% of them indicated that they feel their life is actually better now versus pre-COVID! (compared to 19% who are currently not WFH). It’s reasonable to assume a greater work/home balance and increased family facetime (especially with young children) have been contributing factors to this.

This happiness ‘boost’ also seems to have a halo effect on their perception of employers with the WFH cohort giving higher ratings on many attributes such as flexibility, employee experience and prioritising employee wellbeing.

And most importantly they feel more pride in working for their company….

Still, the uptake in WFH has not been without some challenges for groups of people, especially those who may not have had significant exposure to this work arrangement prior to COVID.

We have identified these potential pain points, which are highly relevant for those championed with Employee Experience and Wellbeing within organisations.

  • Separating work and personal life. Only 57% of Gen Y agree to the statement “I am not distracted from work by my home environment”
  • Keeping hours under control. 25% of Gen Xers disagree with the statement “I am working similar hours to before”
  • Feeling connected to their company.

What about their habits? 

So has this significantly increased time in our home environment translated into new habits and behaviours? We see both expected and unexpected results.

‘Home, optimised home’

Not surprisingly, the WFH group has been much more active over the past year in home renovation activities and even new home builds! Creating a comfortable and efficient ‘home-work’ space and set up is now seen as a worthy longer-term investment by many. We expect this trend to continue in 2021. 

We also see that the WFH cohort have been and will be more active in examining core components of their WFH set up and its co-existence with the family home. Around 50% are considering reviewing their home internet or electricity plan in the coming 12 months. WFH has placed greater pressure on data limits, network speed and being mindful of energy consumption. 

‘E-commerce active’

And with more time in a ‘home office’ environment we see a marked increase in ecommerce activity from grocery shopping right through to sporting goods, fast food, and holiday bookings. 

‘Staying fit’

Keeping a healthy body and mind also seems more prevalent either because of the perception of ‘static’ lazy home working habits (anyone guilty of ‘pyjama’ days?) or simply once again, without needed commute time, the chance to carve out time for yoga, cycling, fitness clubs/gyms and even an increased participation in team sports. 

‘Not total homebodies’

More surprising however is that our WFH group, rather than cocooning at home, is actually more active in visiting café’s and coffee shops than their working counterparts. 

So what does this all mean for brands and even employers?

The WFH cohort that has emerged from our latest Mood of Australia research is certainly an interesting and growing segment of our population. As mentioned in the outset, there is also a current skew to higher income earners. 

The balance of evidence suggests an uptick in happiness and contentment with their new scenario and increased feelings of goodwill and loyalty toward their employer, something that should not be lost on organisations. 

From a brand perspective, there are intersections for several categories:

Telecommunications and Utilities – who need to consider the needs for optimal and cost-effective networks and plans.

Home Improvement/DIY – there is little evidence the home renovation trend will not continue.  Also consider that large spending on discretionary items such as international travel is likely to be curtailed for an extended period and these funds may find their way into the home. Think also of home office equipment. 

E-business – whilst a general uptake in e-commerce is evident across Australia, this group has proved themselves as highly active for both staple and more discretionary items. The Direct to Consumer (DTC) market has shown leaps and bounds in 2020 with Nike recently revealing that one-third of its global sales were completed through Nike Direct.

Out of Home Food/QSR – the WFH cohort has shown no predisposition to limit their meal occasions to in-home. It’s highly logical that a value is placed on outside trips for changes in scenery and to ‘mix up’ the day. Think about specially targeted lunchtime promotions for instance.

Find out more

Like to know more about our Current Mood of Australia Research? We’d love to hear from you.  

Sprout’s Mood of Australia Research is Australia’s biggest annual implicit study into the hearts and minds of Australians (now 7 years of data). We get to the bottom of what Australians really want – what their hearts and minds desire. We ask what do Australians want to feel more of and less of in the coming year.