Does Working At Home Increase Productivity? Some Say Not

Do you struggle to be more productive while working at home? Have you noticed any changes between work at home and the office? Does working at home increase productivity? If so, maybe you’ve seen an increase in productivity or not.

With more people having to work at home over the last month, it’s good to ask whether productivity levels have increased or not. Some would think it’s better because you eliminate things such as commuting. But others don’t think it’s made a difference. Even some people think it’s led to a decrease in productivity.

Does working at home increase productivity? Recent survey doesn’t say so

At the time of this post, it’s nearly six weeks since most companies instructed their employees to work from home. Though it makes sense now, some companies are concerned about the long-term impact of working remotely. In a recent Ernst and Young (EY) survey, about 72% of companies in India believe that the COVID-19 impact on productivity would go beyond six months. Also, 70% of organizations said their biggest concern was a fall in productivity due to working remotely. With the long-term implications, many companies are looking at changing HR practices and virtual processes.

It doesn’t help when you’re trying to work around family and children. If you have little ones, productivity can dive if you’re constantly distracted. Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford University, has conducted past research on work from home benefits. But amid a pandemic, the benefits aren’t showing the best results. Bloom said, “Working from home with your children is a productivity disaster. My 4-year-old regularly bursts into the room hoping to find me in a playful mood shouting “doodoo!” – her nickname for me – in the middle of conference calls.” Many parents are in similar situations who aren’t seeing the productivity benefits.

During challenging times such as right now, there are ways companies can approach “business as usual” strategies, along with helping increase employee productivity. For the remainder of this post, I will go over four approaches that employees can look into for the short-term (and long-term as well). These approaches include:

1.) Investing in automation/outsourcing

2.) Permitting employees to do partial remote work

3.) Allowing more flexible schedules

4.) Coming into the office to do “deep work” tasks

Does working at home increase productivity? 

Invest in automation/outsourcing tools

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As artificial intelligence continues to grow, it’s now going to accelerate moving forward. More companies are looking into outsourcing work or automating repetitive work tasks. In the same EY survey, more than 70% of organizations will be moving toward virtual recruitment methods (i.e., HR practices). Companies are already investing in machine learning and robotic process automation, and they’ll continue to do it for the sake of saving time and money. By starting today, it can result in fewer work responsibilities or tasks for employees to take on.

Benefits of automation

Although there are mixed reviews on automation/outsourcing, it’s one of the best long-term investments for any company to make. Sure, some employees may lose their jobs to automation. But for workers who will stay with their employers,  there’ll be less work for them to do regularly. More so, if they’re working from home more often, that let’s go of the pressure to work more hours while being distracted. It’s better for their productivity and helps them stay focused on their priorities.

Allow employees to do partial remote work

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In the coming weeks and months, there will be changes when people go back to the office. Some companies may work out non-traditional schedules with their employees. For example, they work at home some days and maybe come to the office on other days. In an experiment done by Ctrip in 2015 (a Chinese travel company), they asked their employees to work at home for four days and then come into the office every fifth day. So it’s a good trade-off, especially if employers needed to meet with their employees maybe one day each week.

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Mixing up days is not a bad idea

The idea of a partially remote work each week could work out for both the employer and employee. For those who don’t want to go fully remote, they have the option to work at the office one or two days a week. In the same study by Ctrip (1000 respondents), only half of their employees volunteered to work remotely. Which means the other half wanted to work at the office. Even though this study was conducted five years ago, some workers were willing to commute and come into the office regularly. So some people do like working in an office setting environment.

Going off the previous point, employers can be more flexible working with their employees’ schedules. In addition to partial remote work, employees can work in the morning hours (or after hours) only, and then spend the rest of their days doing things outside of work. If it’s better to work half-days, that might be an option. If it helps increase productivity or avoid distractions, that can be a benefit to the employee and their employer.

Come into the office for deep work tasks

Another option employers can offer to have employees come into the office to do challenging work. By difficult work, these are tasks that require more focus and attention. They may be tasks that many workers can’t get done while being distracted at home. If it’s a project that needs to be finished soon, then give employees some office space to let them focus and get the most out of their time. Especially if this kind of work is not suitable for work at home, working at the office for some people can maximize productivity.

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Complete simple tasks while working from home

On the other hand, it may be better for some people to do lighter, repetitive tasks at home. If these tasks are meant to be done quickly, it should be less stressful to complete. Even with all of the distractions that can come up, you can soon go back to them later. But if you have to do work that requires your utmost attention at home, it can be challenging when little ones surround you. So it’s good to know which work tasks are better done at home and the office.

Wrap-Up

Now that working from home is more common these days, there are benefits but also concerns for both employers and employees. If falling productivity is a concern for working at home, how can employers deal with it in the long-term? If it’s past six months, there are options employers can do at the moment. The options discussed earlier might be worthy of looking into. As businesses and more economic activities resume in the next few months, it’ll be interesting to see how the workplace adjusts after the peak of a pandemic. It’ll be for good and bad, but long-term, some companies will do what it takes to keep productivity levels up at home or in the office.

Do you struggle to stay productive at home? How do you manage your time wisely?

Leave a comment below and please share this post with others.

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ProfessionalEric is a time management consultant and owner of the blog, quitkillingtime.com. He takes great pride in helping people manage their time, personally and professionally. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He likes to go for long walks out in nature and been taking Zumba classes every week at his local gym. You can follow Eric via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.