It certainly has been interesting to see the change in the remote environment but as things begin to normalize, it becomes important to establish whether businesses need to ask staff to return to the office or not. Here we take a look at whether staff are actually more productive when they work remotely.
The pandemic forced change
Through the pandemic, the public was asked to work from home where at all possible. This led to many businesses having to find ways to ensure that staff could take on their tasks and get things done without having access to the office. In a sense, it forced companies to take steps towards remote work.
This byproduct of the pandemic changed how businesses operated. But it also brought up some interesting information about how staff like to work.
Remote work can be more productive
A two-year study into remote working revealed that it can be more productive to work from home. Eliminating issues such as the daily commute, as well as lengthy meetings in person can have the immediate effect of both giving workers more time to get on with their job and feeling more energized to get things done.
This does appear to be something that businesses are seeing. It was revealed by a survey that over 85% of companies intend to continue to offer workers the opportunity to work remotely after the pandemic is over.
Company culture is important too
It’s important to understand, of course, that remote work doesn’t exist in a vacuum affecting productivity. Company culture and what is expected from remote staff plays an important overall role in determining how productive members of staff are. Despite the fact that nearly 80% of workers say that a culture of ‘always on’ has a negative effect on the workforce, around 72% admit to checking work emails or making work-related calls in their free time.
Some companies that treat remote working in a way that means staff are always available can see a marked reduction in productivity. Indeed, as mental health issues are estimated to cost businesses over 15 million lost working days over the course of the year, allowing staff a better work-life balance needs to be factored into the company culture.
Are remote workers at risk of burnout?
“For remote workers, the line separating work from home has become blurred,” says Deborah Witkiss, COO of Insight Legal. “You could even say it’s been removed altogether. The reason is there’s simply no clear geographic division from workspace to personal space, no punctuation to the daily grind and no set time of day to shut down the laptop. The conjoining of the work and home spheres, and working longer days, mean that stress is on the rise.”
There’s certainly going to be an issue if workers can’t separate their home and work lives. Managers and employers might think that this would lead to better productivity, but the reverse is true. Workers feeling stressed and unable to disconnect from their job have been shown to be far less productive than those who are able to separate their time. Everyone requires downtime, and if this is something that remote staff are struggling with, businesses need to do everything they can to support them.
Choice is more important than stats
It’s unfortunately the case that many people worked from home during the pandemic through necessity rather than preference. Indeed, it’s also true that some people who initially find working remotely to be productive can ultimately realise that this was only for a short period and wish to return to the office, or at least partially return.
Ultimately, rather than looking at statistics on how your team performs either remotely or in the office, it can be best to simply offer your staff the option. They will feel better about it if it’s up to them - often staff will be aware of when they are able to be most productive anyway.
It’s probably unwise to put too much focus on whether remote working offers better productivity, as productivity can be affected by a huge range of factors. Not only does it come down to the specifics of the individual, but it can also relate to issues such as staff having the right training, and team morale as a whole.
Some statistics show that remote staff are more productive. Others say that this kind of productivity is short lived and comes at a cost to wellbeing. In any case, it’s best to take a balanced approach and treat staff as individuals.