Over the past year, the majority of our global workforce has transitioned to working from home. For many, this was a significant adjustment and came with some challenges. Some organizations found that their team members were less productive while working remotely, while others felt the opposite. With vaccinations becoming more accessible, organizations have a decision to make. Some organizations are opting to bring all employees back into the office, while others are planning to stay remote indefinitely. Whichever decision an organization chooses, a question has been raised – are work-from-home employees less effective?
Some professionals find that working from home offers too many distractions – others in the house, pets, or the temptation to get back in bed. Alternatively, some individuals believe themselves to be more productive while working remotely as they are in an area they are comfortable with and can focus more. So, which is it? We will discuss the implications of working from home and how it may affect employees’ productivity.
There is much debate about whether or not employees are more or less productive while working from home. After all, an organization's success relies on the productivity of its employees. As most, if not all, have been working from home over the past year, this is crucial to determine. Fortunately, research has been done to answer this question. It shows that organizations experienced a 47% increase in productivity since March of 2020 – the start of the pandemic and our transition to remote work. This statistic may be surprising to many, so let’s go more into detail.
Some studies conclude that remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, which adds up to three additional weeks of work per year. Not only are remote employees working more from home, but they also tend to take fewer breaks, which leads to higher rates of productivity as it reduces burnout. Remote employees take an average of 22 minutes each day for breaks, while in-office employees take 18 minutes worth. So how does this turn into increased productivity? In the same survey, remote employees experienced an average of 27 minutes of unproductive time per day, while in-office employees experienced 37 minutes. Breaks do not mean unproductivity – they can serve as a refresher that leads to better and more focused work.
Another reason that remote work may increase productivity is that it eliminates lengthy commutes. For many professionals, they may be commuting upwards of an hour, one way, each day. As a result, they may already be tired by the time they get to the office or eager to leave and beat the traffic at the end of the day. To put this in perspective, 1 in 4 employees have had to quit a job because the commute was too long. Alternatively, employees have no commute when working from home, and they can get to work immediately. Not only does this save money on gas, but it allows for individuals to have more time for their personal life – a massive bonus as the work-life balance is often a difficult and stressful one to manage.
Clearly, work-from-home employees are more productive than initially thought. While this is true, it is still crucial for organizations to realize that individuals still have a personal preference for their workspace. For example, some professionals may have grown fond of working remotely and choose to continue operating this way. In contrast, others found themselves to be distracted easily and wish to return to the office. Fortunately, there is a solution to finding this balance. Implementing a hybrid work week in your office can appease all team members.
Hybrid work is the combination of offering both remote and in-office work to employees. This allows individuals to choose their workspace based on the location that makes them feel most productive and effective. While this is an excellent solution, there is a way to improve upon it. The hybrid work week offers the same solution, but it allows team members to adjust their work style based upon their activities and specific days. While some employees may be happy to work remotely full time or in-office full time, others may want a mixture of the two. With a hybrid work week, team members can choose the days that they wish to work in-office versus remotely. This could be dependent on their task for the day or any applicable personal reason. With this solution, organizations give their team members the best of both worlds, optimizing productivity by offering employees flexibility in their workspace.
How To Be Productive At Home
Now that we have discussed the benefits of work-from-home employees and some alternative options, let’s discuss how to best be productive at home. Even though it has been proven that remote work can be equally, if not more effective than working in the office, it is important to implement good work-from-home practices. To help your team stay focused and efficient during the workday at home, we'll provide you with some tips.
As research has shown, taking breaks can significantly increase productivity. Encourage team members to get up from their desks throughout the workday, especially when feeling drained or distracted. A productive break may include eating a healthy snack, taking a short walk around their home, calling a friend, or meditating. Taking breaks that cultivate positivity is key to making them productive and ensuring that team members focus on their wellbeing while working.
Another helpful practice involves following a schedule. While working from home, it can be easy to sleep in or end your workday early but having set hours is critical to staying productive at home. You should encourage employees to maintain the same schedule they did while working in the office. This will help employees feel more structured and efficient while keeping their attention focused. Furthermore, for those implementing the hybrid work week, this will keep team members in line with the schedule that they will follow while in the office.
In addition to taking breaks and following a schedule, 30% of remote employees found that keeping a to-do list helped their productivity. Not only does this keep team members aware of the tasks they have to complete, but it gives them a sense of accomplishment when tasks are completed. It’s important to remember while working remotely that communication is essential. This practice makes it easy to communicate when a specific task is finished to keep teams aligned and on track.
Finally, remote workers need to determine their distractions and eliminate them. While research has shown that employees working from home tend to face less distraction, they are still present and should be minimized. This can be as easy as silencing your phone, avoiding tempting areas in your home, and working in an office-like space such as a desk. By putting yourself in an office-like space, you are more inclined to enter a work mindset and focus accordingly. With these tips in practice, your team members will continue to demonstrate the productivity that they have shown the past year. The framework of the traditional office is changing, and part of that is the widespread integration of remote work. Allow your team members to work in the space that best cultivates productivity for them and recognize that this could be working from home.