Posted

With the world discovering alternative ways to work without human contact, the work from home force is getting a facelift. Companies must cope with most non-essential workers completing their work at home. Amidst a pandemic, could your productivity working from home actually be better?

Several studies over the past few months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office setting. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive.

In a workweek, those who work at home are more consistent, work more hours, and get more done. Right away, this doesn’t sound right. How can you be more focused while working at home? Find out how professionals manage to get more done on flexible work arrangements, not in an office setting. 

Before COVID-19

Letting employees work from home has been the fear of plenty of companies because they believe they will be less productive. This isn’t entirely wrong. At home, it’s easy to get distracted, procrastinate, or put in less work than those working in the office.

In 2019, a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 24% of people that were employed did some or all of their work at home on days they worked, and 82% of people that were employed did some or all of their work at their workplace

The same study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics also found that workers employed in financial operations, business, and management occupations (37%) and workers employed in professional and related occupations (33%) were more likely than those employed in other occupations to do some or all of their work from home on days they worked.  

A study conducted in 2012 shows those office workers who were assigned boring tasks performed better and faster in the regular office setting. Home-life distractions are more likely to prevent productive work when you don’t enjoy the work.

But this study found more productive results when the work was more creative. In short, the fewer restraints put on a task, the quicker it will be completed.

The same study also shows an entire “office” will underperform if they each work from home. Each individual will put in the same amount of work as the next. Meaning, no individual wants to put in more work and let the others ride their coattails.

Another more recent study states that the more hours an individual works from home, the less productive they become. Those who worked full time (8 hours/day) at home are 70% less productive than those who don’t work from home.

After COVID-19

A bit has changed since 2012. Working from home has gotten easier and communication software is getting better.

Reports from surveys taken in the past couple of months show working from home is producing a better turn around on projects, and increasing productivity.

Prodoscore reports an increase in productivity by 47% since March of this year (compared to March and April 2019), and have deciphered when people are the most productive.

The report states workers are the most productive on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and between 10:30am and 3:00pm. The average workday still reflects an 8:30am to 5:30pm schedule, and more workers are using emailing and Customer Relationship Management software to stay in contact with co-workers.

A survey by Stanford found that only 65% of Americans had internet fast enough to handle video calls. With 42% of Americans working from home and 26% working at their employer’s physical location.

survey from March this year by Airtasker shows work from home employees spent less time avoiding work (15% difference), spent 1.4 more days working each month, and took more breaks.

Workers in a home environment report they are less distracted by co-workers, spending 30 minutes less talking about non-work topics, and spend 7% less time talking to management.

The New York Times interviewed Nathan Schultz, a senior executive at Chegg, about productivity within the company now that the workforce is sheltered at home.

His first impulse was to constantly check in on employees, but once he backed off, the productivity went up, and employees started completing projects ahead of schedule.

Just because productivity is up, for now, doesn’t mean it will stay this way. The same NYT article reports some companies are seeing employees struggle with the lack of social interaction. The mental health of employees will start to hinder productivity over time decreasing employee satisfaction.

Companies like SplunkAffirm, and Microsoft saw a large spike in productivity in the first couple of months of quarantine, but over time, the loneliness of working at a home office affects productivity and job satisfaction.

Home vs. Office: What’s the Difference?

Surveys and researchers are using the data to help understand how working from home can be more productive and enhance working hours. Several factors are different in a home setting, and these could be the reasons why some workers are more productive at home.

No commute. Whether it takes 10 minutes to drive to work or 1 hour, it saves this time when working from home. Employees can start the workday earlier if they don’t have to take the time to drive into the office. The Airtasker survey reports that, on average, a worker saves 8.5 hours a week of free time by not commuting to work. For a year, this adds up to 408 hours.

Less water cooler talk. Those who work from home talk less to coworkers, whether or not it’s work-related. Airtasker reports 70% of people rank work social relationships as important as getting the work done. Working from home minimizes the amount of social interaction.

More Exercise. The lack of commute and less opportunity to socialize allows remote workers to use the extra time to exercise. Regular exercise can be good on mental and physical health and is a great stress reliever. Those who work from home report exercising 30 minutes more during the workweek.

Maximum productivity. A study conducted by Ask.com found that 86% of employees prefer to work by themselves when they are trying to be as productive as possible.

Working from home and Maximizing productivity

Shifting from working in an office environment to working at home is a big change. Whereat home can you be productive? How do you stay focused? When should you start and finish? How will this affect your home life?

Below are some tips to help you or your employees be more successful working at home:

Create a comfortable workspace. Working in an office caters to keeping you focused and on track. Try to recreate this working space in your home, whether it’s turning an extra room into your office or putting a desk behind the couch. The space should be comfortable, away from added screens (TV, Xbox, etc.), and have everything you need to complete your work.

Stay organized. You might need to adopt a new organizing system or start using a day planner to make sure you stay on schedule. It’s recommended to create a weekly work schedule and list the tasks you need to complete. Staying committed to the schedule will help you create consistency and a routine.

Commit to smaller, but intense work intervals. You can be more productive when you focus intently for smaller periods of time. Spend a couple of hours timing how long you can work before getting distracted. For example, if you can work for 30 minutes before getting distracted, then continue this pace throughout the whole day. After each break, set a timer and work for the next 30 minutes uninterrupted.

Take a break. Taking regular breaks allows your brain to refocus and relax. In the Airtasker survey, 37% of the remote workers say taking regular breaks is the best way to stay productive. Use your break to get a snack, drink water, get fresh air, or check on your family. The average break time for a remote worker is 22 minutes spread out across the day.

Schedule a virtual commute. According to the New York Times, the hardest part of working from home is the loneliness and lack of social interaction. Taking your regular commute time to check in with co-workers can help support social interaction and focus your brain on the day’s work.

To Sum It Up

Working from home can be a more productive work environment than the typical office cubicle enhancing work-life balance. The current pandemic has changed the way we work, and more companies are turning to at-home solutions.

Make sure your employees are comfortable, organized, and healthy to also make sure their productivity stays at company standards for months to come. 

As one of the leading engineering staffing agencies, we help employers recruit engineering, design, and IT Talent. Contact us about our Engineering recruiting services or IT staffing services