Is remote working good for productivity?

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Do you think working from home has made people more productive? The advent of Covid-19 sparked a lot of lively debate around this question.  New research — the first phase of which concluded in January 2021 — aimed to find out more about how remote working impacts productivity. Many business leaders tend to think people who work longer hours are more productive. But has the huge shift towards remote working in the last several months shown this view to be credible?

Later, we’ll look at why some believe working from home for a long time has a negative effect on productivity.

Right now, let’s answer the question.

Working from home can be both good and bad for your productivity. Much depends on the working environment you’re able to set up and the kind of distractions you’re likely to face. If you love your work, remote work is more likely to boost your productivity level than otherwise. Working from home might not suit you if you rely on the atmosphere in an office to help you get your work done or need more direction in your job. The same goes if you enjoy working within teams. Your productivity may suffer if you work from home for a long time.

This may explain part of the reason hybrid ways of working seem favoured by the majority in some recent research. Let’s dive in and look at a project put together to investigate this question, Work After Lockdown.

Work After lockdown

The Work After Lockdown project measured the productivity of both employees and individuals by using surveys and doing interviews. They gauged productivity by output per hour when working remotely, from March to July 2020.  This was done across three main sectors, which represents one in seven of all UK jobs.

  • The survey asked employees about their well-being when working remotely.
  • Almost 40 detailed interviews were set up. This included leaders, co-workers and managers who had no management responsibilities. This was done in 4 companies around the country. This was to get a fuller picture of what working from home was like across the UK.

In a while, we’ll look at some of the reasons why some think remote working has made them more productive.

For now, let’s turn to what the first phase of research can tell us about productivity and remote working.

What did they find?

Here are a few interesting things researchers found.

  • Productivity during lockdown was high. 9 in 10 employees said that they thought they got as much — if not more — done working from home as they used to get done in the office.
  • Remote communication hasn’t enriched working life. 7 in 10 workers favour adopting a hybrid way of working in future.
  • Line managers play a vital role in ensuring productive collaboration amongst and across teams. They also help promote good communication, understanding and flexibility in times of rapid change. This — together with first-rate people management — helps keep businesses running effectively.
  • Working from home brings about communication challenges of its own. In a workplace, you can pop into a colleague’s office to ask something and get a quick response.
  • Some reported that if they rang someone to ask something it takes longer to get to the point than it would in the office.
  • Limited IT support and not being able to print things out hindered some but benefited others.
  • Firms who working towards a paperless system found that lockdown spurred them on.
  • Some lawyers said that they felt they could review hard copies of documents more effectively. Thus they thought being unable to print things easily made them less productive.

Soon, I’ll give you some simple tips on what you can do to be more productive when working remotely.

Next though, let’s look at what we can infer from this research project.   

What can Work After Lockdown tell us?

It seems reasonable to say the benefits and disadvantages of remote working when it comes to productivity are fairly even. At least across some sectors in the UK. It’s up to both employers and employees to decide — as companies and as individuals — whether remote working is a viable long term solution for them.

Now it’s time to look at why remote working may worsen productivity.

Why is remote working bad for productivity?

Here’re just some reasons you may want to re-think working from home on a permanent basis.

Now let’s highlight some benefits of working from home.

Why is working from home good for productivity?

Still think remote work hits the sweet spot for you? You’re not alone.

  • A big study in the US concluded that working from home is just as, if not more, productive than working in an office. Most people involved reported stable or improved productivity levels.  
  • People working away from their employer spent less time procrastinating, worked an extra day per month and took more breaks.
  • More opportunities to exercise and eat healthily make it easier to manage your energy and be more productive.
  • Working by yourself when you need to focus on difficult tasks boosts efficiency.
  • Remote workers spent 2% more time doing difficult tasks than those in an office.
  • More people seem able to manage a more even work-life balance if working remotely.

Let’s discover what you can do to boost productivity when working remotely.

How can I boost productivity when working from home?

Now we’re a bit more clued up about the cases for and against working from home. So, let’s look at how you can boost your effectiveness and efficiency when working away from the office.

  • Start the day early.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Use to-do lists.
  • Set yourself working hours.
  • Remember the importance of exercise.
  • Have some sort of workstation set up.
  • Get in touch with co-workers online so that you don’t feel excluded from the community.
  • For some, listening to music also helps improve productivity and focus.

Summary

I hope this post proved useful. You now know more about remote work and productivity. Remember, there is no right answer to this question. It’s all about figuring out what’s best for you and your well-being. You can always talk to your employer about this. Some sort of hybrid working arrangement may work well for you both in future. Who knows? Take the first step and broach the subject. Before you know it, you could be getting more done, both inside and outside the office!

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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