It’s been three years since the onset of the pandemic. Among the huge changes wrought by the virus, navigating working from home continues to be a hot topic for businesses and workers.
At the time, Relative Insight sought to understand how people from different geographical areas talked about working from home while the concept was novel. This was achieved by analyzing social data – comparing conversations between Brits and Americans and quantifying the variations between the two using relative difference.
But how has this changed over the course of three years now that the novelty of working remotely has worn off? We used a social listening tool to gather comparable discussions on the topic in 2023 to find out.
Following the 2020 findings, Relative Insight examined the year-on-year differences within each country individually – for example how Americans talked in 2020 versus how they spoke in 2023. This uncovered that the discourse around remote work has evolved in similar ways in both countries.
To see which of these insights were more prominent in the US and UK, the study also compared 2023 responses geographically – akin to the original 2020 study. This highlighted the nuances between the two countries, beyond the similarity of overall discourse.
Relative Insight’s software helps people analytics teams to quantify, analyze and visualize text data to sharpen employee engagement, retention, talent attraction and much more. Using a range of data sources, such as employee surveys, Glassdoor reviews, exit interview transcripts, plus social data to track wider workplace trends, the platform quantifies unstructured data to uncover insights that inform and influence people analytics strategies.
The continuing quandary of balancing in-person and remote work is vexing for organizations. Through text analysis, Relative Insight sought to understand how workers’ attitudes impact companies’ next steps in this area.
US 2020: Management and working together prominent
Americans were 2.0x more likely to discuss best practices when it comes to WFH. Some employees found they were more productive than when they were in the office. Though many people experienced learning curves, there was a community of workers providing lots of tips and best practices for others on social.
It seems that even though Americans were big on collaborating on best working practices, many found issues on how to manage a remote team – they were 2.3x more likely to talk about it than UK audiences.
Managing a remote team
Teamwork is huge; many of the most sought-after companies to work for in America are known for being big on “team atmosphere”, but how do you keep that atmosphere going in a 100% remote environment? On social, a lot of suggestions focused on being wary of micromanaging, plus they highlighted that virtual happy hours are a must.
UK 2020: Concern and luck hallmarks of discussions
Brits were 1.4x more likely to talk about being lucky to be able to work from home. During this unprecedented time, people were looking at the positives.
While they accepted that working from home is a challenge – and for many it was their first time having to do so – they appreciated having the option.
Worrying about others
Brits were very happy that they have the option to work from home, but they were also very concerned about the people who do not have the same luxury.
They were 1.6x more likely to discuss key workers and other workers who are not able to work safely from their homes, expressing worry about the well-being of people who couldn’t work remotely.
2020 to 2023 in both countries reveals similar discourse
Time-related words overindex
Three years on, hybrid working models take precedence. Words relating to time are 34.1x more prevalent in 2023, including ‘tomorrow’, ‘today’ and individual days like ‘Friday’. This involved workers highlighting when they were working from home, illustrating the rise of the hybrid environment rather than exclusive remote work.
“Worked 12.5 hours today and just now finishing up. Gonna drive 45 minutes home now but at least there shouldn’t be any traffic. Don’t mind me as I stay in my underwear as I wfh tomorrow lol.“
Working or slacking?
The debate about the effectiveness of remote working is in full swing in both countries. People discussing WFH in 2023 were 15.1x more likely to use the word ‘lazy’, with people who don’t work remotely questioning the work ethic of those who do. However, people working from home argued that they were ‘more productive’ using this phrase infinitely more than in 2020.
“Why do you feel the need to insult the huge numbers who now work from home and are more productive than they ever were?“
“Honestly I don’t get the work from home cult. It is a detriment to most businesses. Lost mentorship and accountability, collaboration, cross fertilisation between teams, camaraderie… the list goes on. WFH is lazy.“
The value of pets
Audiences in both countries were infinitely more likely to talk about pets in 2023. While these discussions incorporated an assortment of animals, dogs overindexed the most. People made clear that being able to stay with their dogs was a key reason they liked or wanted to work remotely.
“My biggest motivation for WFH is my dog. That four-legged beast is entirely made of love.“
Brits link remote working to wider society 12.4x more
In 2023, Britons are 12.4x more likely to refer to working from home in conversations about wider societal and infrastructure issues, consisting of the following.
Brits were 2.1x more likely to talk about ‘rail’ and ‘trains’, while also using the word ‘travelling’ 34.0x more. These conversations were a mix of the rail strikes afflicting the country and relief over not having to commute when WFH.
“I WFH. No commuting. Less stress. Dedicated home office. Regular line management. Can work flexible hours as needed, so can meet deadlines. Meetings are face to face online – can fit more in as no travelling. I have an active life outside work, social needs fulfilled.“
People in the UK were 3.8x more likely to discuss their internet and WiFi in remote working discussions. These discussions focused on connectivity issues, with Brits highlighting their difficulties in effective remote working without reliable network connection.
“I am way too stressed to be starting my new WFH job on Monday without any broadband!“
A cost-of-living and energy crisis in the UK also seeped into conversations about remote working. Britons were 2.8x more likely to talk about ‘heating’ their homes and apartments, with this becoming a particularly vexing issue for those whose living space doubles as their workspace.
“My daughter (software dev who’s WFH) uses a heated throw at her desk, to save heating the whole room.“
US audiences express want 1.9x more
As opposed to British complaints about the state of infrastructure and bills, Americans talked about a broader range of WFH-related topics.
Clear desire for remote working
People in the US were 1.9x more likely to use the word ‘want’ in relation to working from home. They also used ‘wanna’ 5.3x more. Their meaning was clear – they desired the opportunity for remote working.
“I want to work from home so bad 😩.”
Those who are already operating remotely like the working pattern and want to maintain it. Americans were 1.9x more likely to use the language of ‘contentment’, particularly the word glad, to describe their feelings when WFH. They were also 4.3x more likely to use the word ‘quit’, within the context that if employers forced them to return to the office or other on-site work, then they say they would find another position.
“Gotta get back into saving more money from each paycheck, cause if work from home is taken away I will quit without a backup.“
Americans still think of coworkers
A consistent area of contrast between US and UK conversations – apparent in 2020 and 2023 – is maintaining connection with ‘coworkers’. Americans used the word 12.1x more, with discussions focused on building relationships with fellow workers while working remotely, plus concern over infecting them if they go into the office when ill.
“I’m a system administrator and I work from home 4 days a week, but I could work from home 5, I just choose to go into the office to get facetime with my coworkers every once in a while.“
Uncovering and quantifying nuance in WFH discourse
A combination of time and geographic comparisons using text analytics has uncovered both the similarities in how remote working conversations have evolved over three years in the US and the UK, as well as the nuances between how people talk in both nations. While they talk about similar subjects overall when compared over time, each populace views remote working through a different lens.
Brits talk about working from home along with things they don’t like. Whether it be rail and transit issues, connectivity concerns or the cost of living, complaints permeate through their home working discussions. For organizations offering remote work, referencing or mitigating these pain points in job ads will appeal to prospective applicants.
In the US, it’s clear there’s a real desire to work remotely. While this is the priority for many workers, to the point they’d quit if companies withdraw the option to work remotely, they also want a remote environment that supports collaboration and engagement with their coworkers. Employers offering the best of both worlds will be the most successful in attracting talent.
The Relative Insight text analysis platform quantifies, analyzes and visualizes a wide range of people analytics data. Whether you’re looking to dissect employee surveys or uncover workplace trends through social data, our software can help. Speak to one of our experts now to learn more.