Travel behavior

The psychology behind working from home: results of the first study

Published on May 21, 2024

In an earlier article, Eline Verhoeven, master's student of behavior change, shared the first findings about the psychology behind working from home. In it she explained what possible opportunities are for working from home in tackling traffic congestion. The first research into the psychological nature of working from home has now been completed. In this article, Eline shares the first results.

Many people now work from home, on the same days. As a result, we are often all on the road and at the office on the same days. Even though there is enough reason and will to change this, we are still not doing it. Following the first theoretical framework, described in first article, we tested which motives and barriers have the strongest impact on working from home in general. We specifically investigated this among a group of workers who had the possibility have to perform their job from home and are therefore not necessarily tied to a location outside the home. What are the most important psychological factors behind working from home for this target group?

What did we want to find out?

This research looked at what motivates or inhibits people from working from home. Not only did we look at whether our working from home 'intention' (also known as our tendency) has a positive relationship with working from home. We also looked if habit, the extent to which people have the habit of going to the office is negatively related to working from home.

In addition, we looked at whether the conscious route to working from home (via intention) is related to our attitude and norms (how we think). others about working from home?) and perceived behavioral control about working from home (can I work from home?). The sense of connectedness, autonomy and competence at work were also investigated as possible explanations of our working from home intention: are we more or less inclined to work from home if we feel connected, autonomous and competent in our work?

How and among which target group was this research conducted?

This research was conducted with a questionnaire. This questionnaire, which was distributed among the SmartwayZ.NL research panel, was sent by e-mail. Of the 480 participants recruited, 372 people ultimately participated! Most participants were between 51 and 60 years old (34.7%) and were male (66.4%). The participants worked an average of 34.8 hours per week, of which 13.2 hours from home. Of the participants who are at home be able to work, 89.9% also worked from home. In figure 1 you can see how the percentage of hours worked from home per week is spread among participants (from low to high). In figure 2 you can see how home / elsewhere / office work is divided over the week.


Figure 1. Percentage of hours worked from home in a normal working week by participants.

Figure 2. Percentage of working participants and work location per day of the week.

What did the research reveal?

In general, the research group scored relatively high on all psychological factors examined, in particular on working from home intention, attitude about working from home and perceived behavioral control. Overall, the research group already had a high intention to work from home, is positive about working from home and also sees itself as being able to work from home.

  • In this study, working from home intention is the strongest predictor of working from home, but habit also plays a role. The greater our tendency to work from home, the more hours we work from home. But working from home is also inhibited by the commuting habit: the stronger our habit of traveling to the office, the fewer hours we work from home.
  • Working from home intention has a positive relationship with perceived behavioral control, norms and working from home attitude. But a negative one with a sense of connection. When we see ourselves as capable of working from home, observe positive norms about working from home (both in the home environment and in the workplace) and have positive attitudes about working from home, we are more likely to work from home. But: the greater our sense of connectedness at work, the less inclined we are to work from home. The feeling of competence and autonomy in work did not play a role.
  • The attitude about working from home is largely determined by perceived behavioral benefits. The analysis showed that only the perceived benefits of working from home had a positive influence on the working from home attitude. The preference for separating work and private life did not play a role in the attitude.

In Figure 3 you see all relationships described in one model.


Figure 3. Process model with an overview of the tested relationships in this study.

What's next?

In summary, the results of the first study imply that it is important to take into account both the conscious (intentional) and automatic (habitual) pathways that determine working from home. In addition, attitude, perceived behavioral control and norms in particular play a positive role in our intention to work from home.

We will include these results in a second study. To encourage working from home in such a way that it leads to a better spread over the week, we will investigate in a second study whether a working from home solution based on (a combination of) these results is effective in encouraging working from home on specific working days. In a third article we discuss these findings and practical experiences. To be continued!

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