This article first appeared in News Letter on 3rd August 2022.

Working from an office at home is something I’ve done since setting up my own business in 2011. So, when the pandemic struck, and city centre offices began to close their doors, I didn’t really notice a stark difference – except for the non-existent traffic not passing my window each morning.

For many people however, the great debate has now begun. Stay in the home office or return to the daily commute?

From an employers’ perspective it’s a daunting question that may take time and effort to fully explore, but it is very important to get right to prevent a flood of resignations. With many organisations having staff scattered across the country for the last two years, how do we really know what they want, how they feel, or what they’re thinking? Keeping your team happy in the workplace is important for any business leader – and that’s where employee research comes in.

Good employee research such as surveys or in depth interviews can help managers to understand more about how their teams are feeling on a range of issues including job satisfaction, work/life balance, holidays, flexible working options and WFH. This insight provides the opportunity to make constructive change, and boosting workplace wellbeing overall. That’s good news for any colleague, wherever in the management structure they sit.

Recently, we conducted our own research and asked a sample of employees in an online survey how they thought their productivity was affected by working from home. Nearly half (46%) of local workers felt they are equally productive in either location (home or in the office). Interestingly however, 34% stated they are more productive at home whereas only 19% said they are more productive at work. That might come as a shock to many managers who have been wanting to see their office floors filled once again.

It’ll come as less of a surprise however that what most staff want is flexibility. Don’t we all? In our research, only 13% of people wanted to work from home all the time. 34% wanted to work from home three quarters of the time, 22% wanted to work from home half of the time and 25% wanted to work from home one or two days a week. Employers are really going to have to take those numbers into account when deciding on their work-from-home arrangements in the future.

There are a range of research methodologies out there to find out the most from your team and what they want going forward. So, take the time now and invest in insight and knowledge and you’ll find yourself and your company returning to the office (or not?) with a stronger, more content workforce.

Fiona Norman is Managing Director at leading Northern Ireland research agency FN Research – visit