The world of work has undergone a dramatic transformation driven by the development of technology and the shifting attitude towards work. This transformation has resulted in employees and employers finding themselves in a new territory of work, that is remote work mostly.
This shift, while quite beneficial for both sides, has also given rise to a number of questions and concerns.
The biggest question has since been “are remote employees really productive?”.
I’m sure you’ve heard the multiple claims and studies done by employees and renowned researchers and how the vast majority agree on one thing: remote workers are more productive.
But are they really? Are employees more productive working from home?
Even though the job field has been flooded with claims of remote work being the best thing, the opposite opinions are also quite prevalent.
In this blog post, we will look at all the nuances of remote work productivity and find the answer to whether remote work is efficient or is it overrated.
Are remote employees more productive?
The idea that work from home is the most productive way of working has gained considerable traction in recent years. It is mostly described as this utopian way of working free from office distractions. And that is how it’s claimed to lead to higher productivity.
However, the mere change of location is not necessary for a sudden improvement in productivity. It depends on a variety of factors.
After doing some research, I found that the two main claims on remote work productivity are not as true as they seem to be.
Myth 1: Remote work is by far the most productive way of working.
Why is it a myth?
Because the location of work is not the only determining factor for productive work. In the same way, while remote work can be the best formula for someone, it may not be for someone else. Some people prefer and thrive in social environments and feel lonely when working remotely. Or someone else loves teamwork and cannot be productive without face-to-face interaction, especially when it comes to work.
That is why there is no one-size-fits-all solution and it is wrong to assume that remote work is.
Myth 2: Remote work is the solution to distraction-free workspace.
Distractions are everywhere, unless you prefer to work in a soundproof room, where you can even hear your own bloodflow. Yep, that’s true.
Even if you work from home, there are a lot of potential distractions around. A prime example is your phone. Others are video games, family members, guests, kids and pets for some. Others may be distracted even by house errands.
So if you still think that working from home increases productivity, maybe you have mastered the no-distraction game.
Now that we see productivity is not tied to a space, let’s look at the real factors contributing to productivity.
Regardless of the place of work, people need strong self-discipline to be productive. Especially in the case of remote work, you need a high degree of self-discipline to stay productive in a non-office environment.
In fact, you need self-discipline in an office environment too. Otherwise, sooner or later, you are doomed to fail.
Effective communication skills are necessary for productive work. While they seem to be more important in the office, they are also required in remote work. Without the right approach and communication tools, you will struggle to collaborate in remote work.
That is why it is important to have communication skills and of course, be equipped with effective communication tools no matter if you work from the office or home.
So are employees more productive working from home?
Having said all of the above, it is possible to be productive in remote work if
- you have a strict routine and self-discipline
- excellent communication skills
- can create a work environment free of distractions
Otherwise, even remote employees will not be productive. If they do not have a balanced routine and distraction-free environment, they will most likely not succeed at remote work either.
However, at the same time, more and more employees prefer remote work. So why is that?
Why do employees prefer remote work?
More and more employees claim that they love remote work. Remote work productivity statistics show that most people hey save time on the commute, can balance work and personal life, work flexible hours, save money, and more.
Many people have to spend an hour or two on commute. But when working from home, the commute can take 5 seconds from bed to the desk. Or they get to spend the lunch hour with family and pets. Bonus points for homemade and healthy lunch.
Employees prefer to work remotely because they feel comfortable working from home. And comfort is an important condition for productive work.
However, not everyone wants to work remotely. A Reedit user claims working fully remotely makes them depressed. And the reason is obviously lack of social interaction. There are statistics to back this up. In fact, 53% of employees find it harder to connect with colleagues when working remotely.
Along with benefits, remote work is also full of challenges and downsides.
What are the potential downsides of working from home?
1. Burning out
One of the biggest downsides is the risk of burning out combined with lack of interaction. 69% of remote employees reported increased burnout from digital communication tools.
2. Working too many hours
Some employees fall under the risk of working an excess amount of hours and burning out again. It is because when you are not in the office there are no leaving employees to remind you to finish work. Some people get in the flow and sometimes work till midnight.
3. Slacking off
Working from home means no surveillance unless the company uses time-tracking tools to track remote work productivity. In fact, a survey with more than 2,500 people claims that people do slack off when working from home.
That is why many managers want their remote teams back in the office. A BBC article claims that the main reason is their need for control. During remote work, managers do not feel as much in control of their employees because of lack of presence. In fact, many more managers prefer office-based work compared to employees. The same article claims that over 70% of American managers reported preferring their employees to come back to the office.
It is especially executives who are worried about data security in remote work. A Forbes article claims that 73% of executives see cybersecurity as a great risk in remote work. Their concern is indeed justified as remote work requires employees to use their personal devices, and work data has to be stored there. If the company can provide its own devices, much better, but otherwise the risk of data being leaked is high.
So how to make remote work productive?
The solutions are many. Let’s take a look at them in detail.
1. Provide support
Support your employees in any situation and ensure them that they can rely on you. Nothing creates trust more than when there is mutual support in the work environment. Your support can take different forms from providing training to simply being ready to listen.
2. Promote team-building
Team building is important not only in the office but also and especially in remote work. It promotes company culture and connections between coworkers. When working fully remotely, employees are more likely to feel lonely that is why it is essential to help them stay connected with work buddies at least.
3. Encourage work-life balance
As mentioned above, burning out is a pressing issue for remote workers. Some lose the sense of time and work way too past after work. As a result, they may burn out and not only work but their personal life suffers too.
That is why managers must encourage work-life balance. They can do this by checking in on the well-being of each employee and by using tools that help with work-life balance.
In conclusion, employees can be productive in remote work but not necessarily always. Just like in any other work conditions, remote work requires an established routine and self-discipline for productive outcomes.
While it does hold a number of benefits, remote work also brings about challenges. And these challenges can hinder the productivity process. That is why you need to first deal with the challenges and lead your remote employees to productivity.
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