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01 May 2024

Individualism has 'profound impact' on work-from-home culture

A strong culture of individualism has a profound impact on work-from-home rates across different nations, a new study has found.


Nations in which citizens show a greater desire for personal freedom and to work independently without direct scrutiny tend to have a much higher average of days worked at home compared to nations which record lower traits of individualism.

The trend is particularly strong in English-speaking nations, such as the UK, US and Australia, which average 1.4 days-per-week working (WFH) from home compared to Asian nations, in which citizens record lower levels of individualism and average just 0.7 days-per-week working from home.

The findings were revealed in a new study co-authored by Dr Cevat Giray Aksoy of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and King's College London, along with a team of top international scholars.

The research, detailed in the paper Why Does Working from Home Vary Across Countries and People?, investigates a range of factors that drive differences in rates of WFH, including cultural, economic, and industrial influences.

Drawing on new data from two surveys that spanned tens of thousands of workers across 34 countries, the study provides an in-depth look at how elements such as cultural individualism, technological capabilities, pandemic-driven lockdown practices, and demographic characteristics shape WFH trends.

The research highlights stark contrasts in WFH rates post-pandemic, with English-speaking countries leading at an average of 1.4 WFH days per week, followed by Latin American countries and South Africa at 0.9 days, European countries at 0.8 days, and Asian countries at 0.7 days.

The key finding of the study is the impact of cultural individualism on WFH rates, which accounts for about a third of the variation observed across countries. Nations with high scores in individualism, such as the United States and the UK, report significantly higher WFH rates, underscoring a cultural fit with the independence and adaptability that remote work demands.

The study also delves into the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has accelerated the shift toward remote work, a change that appears to be persisting across global and cultural boundaries. Furthermore, it notes significant within-country variations, such as in the United States, where factors like political leanings, urban density, and industry sectors distinctly influence WFH practices.

Dr Aksoy said: “This study illuminates the complex interplay between cultural values and the adoption of remote work practices. It’s not just about the availability of technology or economic strategies; it’s deeply embedded in the cultural fabric and societal norms that shape how and why people work from home.”


The full findings and implications of thE research are discussed in the paper available through:

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Cevat Giray Aksoy

Lecturer in Economics