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:
- Working in an office can be a distraction when I’m designing learning programs.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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 email@example.com.