When the pandemic brought lockdowns and caused many businesses to move their operations online, there were questions about the effectiveness of remote work. Would employees be as productive as they were in the office? Would collaboration suffer? How could organizations stay on track with deadlines and objectives when workforces became distributed?
Even as some businesses have resumed in-person operations, remote work’s increasing popularity is here to stay. According to FlexJobs’ 10th Annual Survey in July/August 2021, 58% of respondents want to be full-time remote employees post-pandemic, while 39% want a hybrid work environment. That equates to 97% of workers who want some form of remote work.
Remote work has introduced some challenges to some employees, but it has also increased productivity for many businesses. Here’s a look at how remote work has impacted productivity, as well as pitfalls to consider.
Remote Work Can Boost Employee Productivity
One of the benefits of remote work is that it has made it easier for employees to have flexible schedules. Workers can begin their workday as early as they wake up, and work on through the night if that’s when they’re most energized.
In August 2020, CNN reported on a survey of nearly 800 employers that found 94% of employers said their workforce’s productivity was higher (27%) or the same (67%) than it was before the pandemic.
Another study by Chicago Booth tracked more than 30,000 workers in the U.S. from May 2020 to March 2021. The study found nearly 6 out of 10 workers reported they were more productive working from home than they expected to be, with 40% of workers saying they were more productive working remotely than they had been in the office.
Why have workers been so productive working remotely?
- Flexible schedules
- 24/7 work capabilities
- Less office distractions, like coworker chatter
- Ability to create a personalized working environment, including physical surroundings and noise levels
Another potential boost to worker productivity with remote work? Enhanced work-life balance.
The Chicago Booth study found U.S. workers were commuting an average of 54 minutes a day before they started working remotely. That time saved gave employees more time to spend with family, on household duties, and on self-care. A May 2021 report based on research from AIGA and The Creative Group found 66% of creative employees said eliminating a commute has improved their work-life balance.
Remote Work Productivity Pitfalls to Be Aware Of
While the majority of employees want to work remotely and the majority of organizations say productivity hasn’t suffered, remote work hasn’t benefited all organizations and employees. In September 2021, “Venture Beat” reported on a survey that found 22.5% of managers had said productivity had decreased at their company since workers started remote work in 2020.
A June 2020 report by ZDNet found Gen Z and younger workers, in particular, find it tougher to feel engaged and be productive in remote work environments. While Millennials and older workers may have welcomed remote work because they were already used to an office environment, Gen Z workers crave connection and workplace culture. Organizations that don’t facilitate this in a remote environment could see engagement decrease in younger workers.
To combat pitfalls and ensure workforces stay productive, businesses can:
- Create social workplace bonding opportunities, both virtually and in-person. An organization could host a virtual coffee hour during the workday, for example, or bring remote workers together in person at off-site events.
- Focus on project deadlines, not set office hours. Enable workers to work when they’re most productive, not at a set 8 a.m.-5 p.m. when that schedule isn’t necessary.
- Be mindful of meetings. It’s easy to schedule video meetings throughout the day, but that can negatively impact employee productivity. You might consider a no-meeting Thursday and Friday to give employees the chance to go head-down into work. Or try to schedule meetings in the mornings, so employees have the rest of their time to focus on their tasks.
- Set employees up for success with the right technology. Remote work environments demand the right technology to keep employees on track. Invest in project management applications to ensure total visibility into projects and enhance communication among distributed workforces.
While there have been some challenges in transitioning to remote work, most organizations that shifted quickly and put the right tools in place have seen improvements in remote work productivity.
Remote Work Can Help You Attract Better Talent
The majority of workers today want some form of remote work, either in hybrid workplaces or in fully remote roles. AccruePartners can help your company position its remote work offerings to acquire better talent. Contact us for a free consultation.