As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in its second year, more people than ever are working from home (WFH).
WFH was a growing trend before the pandemic, with 4.7 million people in the U.S. already working remotely (accounting for 3.4 percent of the total U.S. workforce). In fact, from 2005 to 2018, it was reported that there was a 173 percent increase in remote work in the U.S. alone.
During the pandemic, WFH has increased even more significantly.
Some companies are already looking to adopt WFH or hybrid work arrangements permanently.
According to a Gartner survey, 80 percent of company leaders plan to continue part-time remote work after the pandemic while 47 percent will allow a full-time WFH scenario for their employees.
In a PwC survey conducted on 669 CEOs, 78 percent are in agreement that WFH is going to be a long-term trend.
A question that is commonly asked (and debated) is “Is Working From Home (WFH) more or less productive?”.
In this post, we examine both sides of the debate and share with you our own personal experiences on WFH.
Working From Home Is More Productive
Many survey results that have been posted online were unanimous in reporting that WFH is more productive.
Here are the reasons that are frequently cited:
1) The Time Factor
Increased productivity is primarily due to an increase in working hours when the switch is made to WFH.
These additional working hours results from the elimination of the 30-minute to two-hour commute to and from an employee’s workplace.
Also, more time is added because of the elimination of structured breaks in a WFH scenario. Employees on a WFH setting take periodic but shorter breaks, instead of the hour-long lunch breaks and coffee breaks.
Naturally, with an increase in time for work, even if it is done at home, you can expect to see faster delivery times for work assignments.
2) Elimination of Commuting Fatigue
There is another reason why the elimination of the daily commute in WFH helps to increase productivity.
Employees have reported increased stress levels and anxiety resulting from the commute.
Aside from the early fatigue and exhaustion employees experience in traffic even before they start work at the office, they are at increased risk for health issues including increased high blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, and elevated blood sugar.
With WFH, employees are in the position to better monitor their health and stay healthy, thus improving productivity.
3) Improved Work-Life Balance
A frequent dilemma that regular office workers have is their difficulty in maintaining a good work-life balance.
With WFH, employees can observe a flexible schedule that enables them to submit their deliverables on time while still doing the chores around the house or allotting personal time for oneself.
This greater control over their WFH schedule helps employees to establish work times wherein they can work productively and with minimal distractions.
4) Provides a Better Breathing Space
Many employees have reported that WFH accords them a better breathing space because they don’t have to deal with demanding bosses, the stress of meetings and conferences, and competitiveness with other employees.
This means that they feel more relaxed and able to concentrate/focus on the work at hand rather than have to face stressful interpersonal relationships or presentations requiring an audience within the workplace.
Working From Home Is Less Productive
While WFH has been reported to improve productivity, behavioral scientists caution employers to dig deeper into their present remote work situations. This is because increased productivity at the start may lead to burn out and declining productivity later on.
Let us take a look at the reasons why WFH can also be less productive:
1) Panic Productivity
Forbes has reported a trend of “panic productivity” during the course of the pandemic.
While there is a significant increase in productivity, this was primarily due to the adrenaline boost of having to shift to WFH, the fears of job loss, and their determination to remain relevant to the organization even if they are not working in the office.
This has led to employees reporting of greater exhaustion and incidents of burn out and, thus, decreased productivity for the longer run.
2) Poor Mental Health and Struggles with Work-Life Balance
It is ironic to say the least that an employee’s struggles with work-life balance can also lead to diminished productivity.
This can be due to their inability to separate their work from their household responsibilities, such as in the cases of employees with very young children or who are taking care of elderly parents. In fact, some employees have reported that these household matters tend to be the major distractions when they are working.
In addition, because of the pandemic, WFH employees’ mental health have taken a beating.
This is due to their anxieties regarding the security of their jobs, dealing with the isolation caused by the pandemic, and their difficulties in maintaining contact with bosses and fellow employees while WFH.
If not managed properly, this could lead to work from home burnout too.
3) Poor Collaboration resulting in Poor Organizational Productivity
A complaint that many WFH employees have is that they don’t have access to resources that are only found in their workplace and/or have difficulties in communicating with bosses and co-workers.
This is especially true when certain tasks require organizational consultation and collaboration.
Studies have also shown that people who WFH are more productive when the work is routine or repetitive. However, when it comes to more complex or sophisticated projects, employees become less productive because they require supervision.
Productivity can suffer if the employer cannot manage his/her employees to work as a team remotely.
Our Experience With Working From Home
I am thankful for the fact that my digital agency has built up considerable experience with a WFH situation even before the pandemic began. Because of this, when COVID-19 struck, we only had to make a few adjustments in order to transition to a hybrid WFH workplace.
Working from home is more productive but only if you and your employees can work together to make it so.
On the part of our employees, this meant ensuring that they have a good WFH set up and equipment.
This includes a good computer with the right software, including for video conferencing for those times when communication and collaboration within the team is necessary, a strong WiFi connection, and a quiet place in the home where they can work with minimal distractions.
I have also advised my staff to determine the best hours wherein they can work uninterrupted. If they have been working in the office in the past, I recommend that they observe the same working hours at home.
By establishing a work routine, they are more focused and efficient at their work. I also advise them to speak with family members and request their cooperation to allow them to work without distractions during specific hours of the day.
I always encourage our employees to be flexible and determine the ideal work-life balance that is suitable to them.
On the other hand, as an employer, it is my responsibility to oversee every aspect of the remote work.
Before we begin on any project, I make it clear what my expectations are from my staff, including the details of the project, the goals, the specific tasks that need to be accomplished, and the time frame in which I expect these tasks to be finished.
One particular advice that I always give my remote teams is to come up with a daily “To-Do” checklist. This way, it is easier for them to prioritize the tasks that they need to accomplish for the day so that they don’t leave anything undone and prevent the tendency of jumping from one task to another if they find a particular bit of work difficult.
I make it a point to leave all communication channels open, whether through email or video conferencing, and I encourage my remote teams to do the same with their fellow members.
This makes it possible for us to communicate and collaborate especially if an employee encounters a problem in the fulfillment of their assigned task. It is also important to note that maintaining communication, even on weekly basis, has the positive effect of boosting morale and productivity among my remote teams.
As you can see, we get more things done working from home, but it took time and effort – and a lot of personal adjustments! – to get there.
Whether you’re an employee/freelancer/self-employed or an employer, be sure to check out our Complete Guide To Working From Home to get started!