Work From Home – A Hygiene or a Motivator?

This is from the “Accounting Makes Cents” podcast episode #7 released on Monday, 21 February 2022.


In today’s episode, we will be discussing how remote work from home could be analysed as either a hygiene factor or a motivator using the motivational theory called Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory.

Jump to show notes.

Herzberg Two-Factor Theory

To start off, let’s do a background on the theory. The Two-Factor theory actually has many names. Sometimes it’s referred to as the Dual-Factor Theory, Motivation-Hygiene Theory, or in the CIMA circle, sometimes it’s just simply called Herzberg’s. So Herzberg is the guy who theorised and identified that there were two factors in the workplace. On the one side, we’ve got motivators. These are factors which need to be present in the workplace to be able to motivate people, ultimately leading to employee satisfaction. On the other side, we’ve got hygiene factors, which don’t necessarily motivate employees more or provide positive satisfaction, but if these factors are absent, then they can lead to dissatisfaction at work.

The thing to remember here is that motivators tend to revolve around the nature of the work, achieving something and being recognised for it. Examples of motivating factors are: 

  • being recognised for the efforts that one achieves at work; 
  • being offered challenging work and having responsibility and greater autonomy, since these signify that the boss relies on you and believes in you;
  • Being promoted and having some sense of importance within the workplace

While hygiene factors tend to revolve around job-related aspects which focus on the workplace environment and outside of the work itself. Examples of hygiene factors are:

  • having job security and feeling safe and secured in their positions
  • the salary and fringe benefits that one gets
  • having safe and comfortable working conditions
  • the existence, and sometimes enforcement, of company policies and procedures

According to Herzberg, if a company wishes to increase job satisfaction, then it should focus its energy to work on the nature of the work itself, but if the company wishes to reduce dissatisfaction, then it should be thinking about the workplace environment. In the event that the company is equally concerned about both, then it should give attention to both sets of factors. It was important to attempt to eliminate job dissatisfaction first before going onto create conditions for improving job satisfaction because if a company tries to do both things at the same time, it might work against each other.

Work From Home

So now we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about work from home.

In October 2021, PwC, one of the Big 4 accounting firms globally, announced that they were offering 40,000 of their US employees the ability to work virtually out of the office. During this time, a lot of companies were already issuing statements that work from home would become part of their future, be it a permanent fixture or a hybrid model of some sorts. This was called a game-changer.

Obviously this is not a new notion. Some jobs have always had this as part of the contract. But if we had to take a step back, you’d probably mostly agree with me that pre-COVID, it was more the exception rather than the norm to be offered remote work from home as part of your arrangement.

So is WFH a motivator or a hygiene factor?

In the world of Herzberg, work from home is more like a hygiene factor rather than a motivator. There is some element of motivation in work from home, but it’s related more towards being autonomous and responsible for your own work. However, since work from home is more about the work environment, it’s likely to be considered a hygiene factor. But is it really?

An important distinction with actions is that when an employee has to do something because he has to, then it’s simply a movement, but when an employee does something because he wants to, then it can be classified as motivation. So think about this in terms of work from home and how it doesn’t really motivate you to become more productive whilst working. You may become more productive as a result of working from home, because there are less distractions and interactions, so you get more done. But I don’t think you are really motivated to work more just because you’re working from home.

In some ways, you might also look at this that it’s not totally a hygiene factor as well. Most of us are so ingrained with the fact that we have to pitch up to work physically that it won’t really dissatisfy us if we don’t get to work from home permanently or in a hybrid way. But beware! If you’ve already offered work from home as part of the package and employees have come to expect it, then it would really become a hygiene factor. Because if you take it away after the fact, employee dissatisfaction will follow.

End note

So that is it for me today. I hope you found this episode helpful. If you did so, please do not forget to hit And that is it for me today. I hope this made you really think about hygiene factors and motivators that currently exist in your workplace. Do you agree about work from home being a hygiene or a motivator? It makes you think, eh?


Show notes simplified

After 2 years of COVID-19, we’re living a new reality. Most employees can now work from home and the business world doesn’t stop. In this episode, MJ the tutor ponders whether the opportunity to remote work from home is an effective way of motivating employees, analysing it whilst using a tool like Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory.

Resources and links from this episode:
Reuters reporting news of PWC WFH policy

Credits:
“Ding Ding Small Bell” (https://freesound.org/s/173932/) by JohnsonBrandEditing (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1RImxnsbfngagfXd_GWCDQ) licensed under CC0 Licence.

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