Survey Results: Virtual vs. Onsite – Part 1

In late December 2013, I posted a survey on a few LinkedIn groups to gather some data about Instructional Designers’ (ID) thoughts on virtual work versus onsite. I did this because I am finding that the consultants increasingly are turning down onsite work. Normally, my surveys get between 50 and 100 respondents  —  this survey received an amazing 247 responses and many, many requests to post the results!

So, here are some of the results with my prior assumptions and reactions.

Question 1 – Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements about commuting:

  1. Working in an office can be a distraction when I’m designing learning programs.
  2. I prefer to work in an office with colleagues.

Assumption: Based on my own experience as an ID contractor, I expected both statements to receive agreement, with a slight edge for the first statement. In my experience, being in an office does give you socialization opportunities as well as a better understanding of the corporate culture.  But, I find I need quiet for my design work.

Surprises: None

Interesting Comments:

  • During the “brain-storming” sessions it helps to be face-to-face but once the work is defined its easier to do it without distractions of the office.
  • Despite my answers, it really depends on the client and the work.  I like a combination–part time in the office and part time from home.  That way I know the players and am learning about the dynamics of the company, but am also able to step away from any daily politics and focus on developing the content.
  • While I enjoy the social aspect of office work, I much prefer to do my creative work in solitude. I was a “virtual” worker for the last 8 years and now have an on-site contract position. I much prefer WFH where I have more control over the work environment.
  • While I love working virtually at times I do miss the face-to-face interaction with colleagues. I’ve found networking through other groups has helped mitigate this somewhat.

Result Chart:

Q: Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements about your commuting.

Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements about your commuting.


Question 2 – Which benefit of working virtually is most important to you?

My Assumption: Since my reason for wanting to work from home is my work / life balance (i.e., more time with my family), I naturally assumed that would be the most popular answer.

Surprises: The actual results show that IDs feel they are more productive at home with fewer distractions.

Interesting Comments:

  • To get work done, I prefer working at home, but I do miss the social interaction of an office.
  • Working in an office is helpful for brainstorming/input/and general “brain-picking.” When it comes to really write, do heavy development or otherwise “crank out the work” being in an office is distracting and can negatively impact productivity. So, there are pros and cons for both. There is a time and a place for both.
  • You need to be able to speak with and observe learners and SMEs, but you don’t need to be in the office for this work.

Results Chart:

Benefits of Virtual Work

Benefits of Virtual Work


Question 3 – Which of these drawbacks have been the hardest aspect of virtual working for you?

Assumption:  Based on my own experience, I would have assumed “lack of work boundaries at home”. When I first started working from home, I was the only one there during the day and it was quite easy. But, as I had children, and then a spouse working from home, boundaries became an issue.

Surprises: This doesn’t seem to be a big issue for most of the IDs surveyed.  It appears that we have solved those boundary issues as we have become a virtual world. IDs are more concerned about being “cut off” from clients and co-workers.

Results Chart:

Drawbacks of Virtual Work

Drawbacks of Virtual Work


What can we take from these responses? 

I think these answers mean that virtual work has become very mainstream. As opposed to 10 or 15 years ago, almost everyone seems to have learned how to work from home. Technology seems to have caught up with enabling work from home. Companies seem to be more accepting of work from home. It also appears that answers to social isolation are necessary since we are spending so much of our time at home working.

This also leads to another question for learning professionals – what does this mean for our learning solutions? We are all being asked to design more and more virtual learning experiences today. What future improvements in virtual learning are coming?

This covers the first three questions on the survey. In the next blog, I’ll cover the questions that discuss rates, work hours, office setup, and equipment.

Leigh Anne Lankford is an instructional designer with more than 22 years’ experience in the field of HRD. She is a Relationship Manager for TrainingPros in Atlanta, working closely with training and development departments of large organizations to identify, attract, and on-board contract employees for very specific and specialized training and development needs. You can reach Leigh Anne at 

11 Responses to “Survey Results: Virtual vs. Onsite – Part 1”
  1. Leigh Ann – thanks for sharing the survey and your results. Given the responses that came in, seems like there’s definitely some passion around this topic. I tend to lean more towards the agreeing with the assumptions you stated and am equally as surprised at how some of the responses broke down by percentages.

    I’ve always had mixed feelings about the idea of working out of a home office (vs. being on site) – some of these responses seem to help ease my fears/anxieties.

  2. Latresse Bray says:

    This week was a prime example of the benefits of WFH. Upper management sent messages each day informing all to WFH as the roads were bad. This came from upper management and not just your direct report. It shows that they care about their employees (contractors, yes we are a part of the team) and their safety. Also he mentioned that the schools were closed, therefore, those with children needed to stay home with them as most extended care facilities were also closed. It means a lot and it makes you continue to provide quality work!

  3. Dan Hill says:

    From personal experience, I’ve seen a lot of people who think working from home is ideal, but soon find they are not suited to it – it is their inability to manage their time that ends up hurting them. When they find out that working from home is not the answer to daycare issues, they are ready to go back to the office! I’ve always enjoyed working virtually, and have been very successful with it. I have seen that it is not for everyone! Maybe all those responding to your survey have come to recognize this – good for them!!!

  4. Armando Sosa says:

    Interesting responses. Thanks for sharing.

    (The data could have been presented in a far more appealing way.)

    • Kairiin Bright says:

      I thought the responses were very well presented – I love the pie charts and graph. In the question 1 response graph, you did repeat each question by mistake, but otherwise, I found the presentation very professional and visually engaging.

  5. Milton H. Edwards says:

    Thanks, Leigh Ann, for initiating this survey and for reporting on the results! The most significant insight I gained from the survey respones is that technology advances have enabled IDs to be more virtual, reducing the requirement to be onsite. Since most larger companies offer VPN and dynamic meeting environment access (WebEx, GotoMeeting, etc.), using technology to work virtually provides IDs a better quality of life, continued socialization via remote meetings and conference calls, commuter time and cost savings, and overall productivity improvements due to fewer workplace distractions. I’m hopeful that more and more clients/employers will allow IDs to work virtually, at least a few days per week. I hope, however, that clients offering virtual work opportunities do not expect IDs to accept a “bargain basement hourly rate.” I look forward to reading your follow-on survey results.

  6. Leighanne, thanks for posting this. I can say from my experiences I would fall into the same curve. Although, commuting is a big one for me. I like to have the flexibility to work from home a few days and be in the office a few days! It helps from me feeling so isolated. I find the hardest thing for me is to take time to invest in new skills!

  7. Joseph Barbella says:

    We’ll the results are no surprise. Even when I speak to other recruiters they mention to me a position that has to be onsite and they understand with this position we do not need to work onsite to do our job. No only that, some of these companies know the same thing and they still come in at a very low payrate. For me WFH, is a total plus in some many directions it is not worth pushing the envelope to 10 dollars more. The work and family life is so critical these days. Thanks LeighAnne for your survey.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Survey Results: Virtual vs. Onsite – Part 1 | Ileighanne’s Blog […]

  2. […] you missed the first installment of this survey report, you can read it here.  In the last blog, I covered the first three questions from my […]

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