During the pandemic, most working Petersburgers have not changed their working hours: more than 35% have been working online, while 55% continue to work face-to-face. However, 42% had previous experience of teleworking while 57% faced it for the first time. These are the findings of a survey of St Petersburg University sociologists prepared for the 5th St Petersburg International Labour Forum.

Among 70% of respondents who rated their remote work experience positively, more than half — about 55% — see an advantage in not spending money on commuting to and from the office. More than 35% of the respondents feel comfortable that they can combine work and household chores. A third of the respondents (about 33%) consider it an advantage that they can plan their working day themselves. A quarter (25%) think that it is more comfortable to work at home, since it is quiet and no one distracts. About 20% say that they are more productive at home: they can do much more than in the office. At the same time, almost every fifth respondent does not see any advantages of teleworking. 

According to the survey, most of the respondents have not changed their work schedule during the pandemic. More than a third of the respondents had had experience of teleworking before the pandemic started. For 42% of the respondents, remote working is nothing new and not unexpected as it is not their first experience. 

The telephone survey of residents of St Petersburg was carried out in late January — early February 2021. A total of 1,210 people took part in the survey, including 741 employees. Among the respondents are 56.2% females and 43.8% males. 23% of the respondents are in the 18-29 age group; 17.9% — the 30-39 age group; 16.8% — the 40-49 age group; 17.8% — the 50-59 age group; 24.5% are over 60 years old.

Although many respondents are positive and satisfied with the experience of teleworking, only a third of them are willing to permanently work online. All the rest are sceptical about such changes, and more than a third ‘strongly disagree’ with such prospects. 

The biggest disadvantage of teleworking is the inability to perform all the work online. This was indicated by 40% of the respondents. About 22% of the respondents believe that it is impossible to work smart at home: it is difficult to combine work and household chores. Roughly the same number said that their discomfort was due to no workplace at home, noise and a lot of distractions. About 18.5% are dissatisfied with unregulated working hours and complain that they have to work long hours every day. Of all the respondents, only 17.5% do not see any drawbacks in teleworking at all, while about 9% are undecided. Thus, nearly three quarters of those surveyed found drawbacks in teleworking.

Comparing the data on the advantages and disadvantages of teleworking, it may be concluded that working from home for one category of employees is more likely to be associated with advantages, while for another category such work is more disadvantageous. Some people feel more comfortable working at home, while others do not. What does it convey? It means that the transition to teleworking requires an individual approach, and not only because of the specifics of the employee’s activities, but also because of their living conditions and personal characteristics.

Olga Nikiforova, a co-author of the study, Candidate of Sociology, Associate Professor in the Department of Economic Sociology, St Petersburg University

According to the results of the survey, 60% of employees in St Petersburg have faced challenges when switching to remote work. The most common of these is the lack of communication with colleagues to solve operating tasks: this was reported by just under 25% of the employees surveyed. More than 21% of the respondents said that it is difficult to work at home, as there are many distractions. Almost 12% of the respondents admitted that they needed extra financial investments to purchase equipment and pay for the Internet to work. More than 10% complained about: the absence of a comfortable workplace at home (10.7%); the lower speed of the home Internet in comparison with the one at work (10.4%); and no access from home to documents or systems that are needed for work (6.7%). Power outages and lack of skills in new software or mobile applications were found to be a problem for less than 5% of working respondents. 

‘Following the results of the survey, it may be concluded that the most comfortable option in everyday life for a significant number of the respondents is work in the office, at their workplace in the company, or work in a hybrid format. Completely remote work is acceptable in everyday life only for every eighth employee. At the same time, about a third of the respondents are ready to permanently work from home after the end of the pandemic if they have such an opportunity,’ emphasises Vera Minina, a co-author of the study, Doctor of Sociology, Professor in the Department of Sociology of Culture and Communication, St Petersburg University. 

Employment issues amid the spread of the novel coronavirus disease will become central topics for discussion at the 5th St Petersburg International Labour Forum. It be held in both Russian capitals in a mixed format from 19 to 23 April 2021. The organisers of the Forum are the government of St Petersburg, St Petersburg University, and the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS Member Nations with the support of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Federal Service for Labour and Employment of the Russian Federation.