Is working remotely less productive?
We’ve all seen the Elon Musk email by now, right? Tesla employees are free to work remotely but only after they clock 40 plus hours in the office. If they want to work from home? “They should pretend to work somewhere else.” (@ElonMusk, Jun 1, 2022, Twitter)
Is working remotely just an extended “mental health day” of binge-watching Hulu? Or, has a more flexible work situation offered freedom for employees to spread those creative wings and fly?
It’s a complicated question to answer.
We have gained a better understanding of the benefits of remote work like a better work-life balance or removing commuting costs. However, does that extend to a business’s bottom line? Businesses may be saving money on real estate and other costs associated with in-house workers, but are remote workers still getting the job done?
How is productivity measured?
Measuring work productivity was easier when workers were within earshot or visible through the glass panels of a supervisor’s office. Now it’s a trickier endeavor. How do you measure productivity in the remote era?
Most statistics regarding the productivity of a remote or hybrid workforce come from workers assessing their productivity. A Biteable survey reports that 63% of remote workers consider themselves more productive than they were when working in the office full time. The majority of those surveyed even claimed to work more hours per day from home than they did at the office. (Biteable.com)
Sounds good, but maybe a more objective indicator would be how managers see the productivity of their teams?
…both managers and employees agree that productivity has increased. 32.2% of managers believe productivity has increased after the 2020 remote work shift…” (Zippia.com)
So, is measuring the productivity of remote workers a subjective shot in the dark? Not necessarily. The same metrics used to assess the productivity of workers in the office can be used for those working from home. Productivity isn’t measured by a traditional work week and hours. It’s measured by results.
Build a better work environment and productivity will come?
While some employers are looking toward what McKinsey calls the “finish-line effect” of returning full-time to the office, many workers are looking for flexible work environments. Ignore the “Great Resignation” at your peril. Increasing numbers of workers are looking elsewhere when confronted with returning to the office. (McKinsey) On the other hand, some workers thrive in the office and prefer to be there exclusively. How do you manage a team of workers split between wanting to return to the office full-time and wanting a flexible hybrid situation?
It’s something that Human Resource experts agree is key to workplace productivity.
…how do you build a culture that works in that environment? How do the jobs of your managers and leaders change when working virtually some or most of the time? How do you maintain collaboration? How does performance management work?”- Brian Kropp (gartner.com)
Rather than subscribing to Musk’s scorched earth policy, it might be better to consider how to structure a varied workforce (remote, hybrid, full-time in-office) that is collectively productive. Is that a more difficult approach? Sure. However, an approach that takes advantage of each employee’s most productive working arrangements might just be the answer your business is looking for.
Flynn, Jack. (2022, April 5). Remote Work Statistics : Facts, Trends, And Projections. Zippia.com.
(2022, May 5). How HR Leaders Should Approach Today’s Ever-Evolving Workplace. Gartner.com.
De Smet et al. (2021, July 9). Getting real about hybrid work. McKinsey.com.