Working From Home Increased Productivity: A Reality or Fallacy?
It is no longer news that the COVID-19 pandemic shattered work life across the globe, with workers having to work from their homes. Jobs that were thought to be impossible to do remotely also got affected. The transition from office working to remote working did not go easy with a number of companies, especially those that are not technologically savvy. Only a few companies were able to put the pieces together in surprising ways.
Challenges of remote working
Some of the changes that followed the forceful transition included companies having to expand resources (time and money) in ensuring a seamless remote access, older employees having to find their way through becoming tech-adept, and department heads and supervisors developing an alternative means of supervising their team members to get organizational tasks completed with the same level of efficiency, howbeit without their physical presence.
Besides, since almost all employees started working from home, many of them have to do a lot of (additional) jobs – their job and other people’s. Remember students could no longer go to school; childcare homes are still under lock, among others. These employees who now work remotely have taken up these tasks.
The implication of this is that the number of things competing for employees’ attention at home, apart from their job, grew by a sizeable amount. This tends to impact their level of concentration, efficiency, and consequently, productivity as they tend to find it difficult to stay on track in their daily responsibilities.
Also, remote working has been associated with employees’ feelings of isolation and loneliness, which in turn, resulted in decreased morale or productivity. Some companies attributed employees’ turnover to these reasons, and have made provisions for in-person meetings once in a while to compensate for the loss of in- person interaction.
Benefits of working from home
Nevertheless, there are a host of benefits associated with the sudden transition. For instance, employees who spent an average of one hour going to work every day, prior to the pandemic, no longer have to deal with the stress of getting behind the wheels and driving for long hours to and from work or even getting stuck in traffic for long hours. There have been cases where employees had to quit their former jobs just because of long commuting stress and long hours.
The implication of this is that, employees, by the end of the year, would have saved significant amount of money that would have been spent on commuting to and from work. Also, remote workers now have longer break time than when they operated in-office. All these, coupled with the knowledge that their work progress is being tracked, make employees to be focused and productive.
Also, by working from home, employees can stay out of the city centers to reorganize their lives, redefine their goals, and have a relative amount of tranquility.
On the part of the employers, they are able to save money on office space.
Productive employees: who are they?
While some studies have revealed that employees who work from home are more focused, it is necessary to also consider some indices that have to be present, for the ‘assertion’ to appeal to logical reasoning. Remember one of the shortcomings of working from home as it relates to productivity is distractions. The caveats to the actual participants of most of the studies include meeting some criteria, such as having no kids, having another room other than a bedroom or the dining table to work from, and having quality internet connection and good IT support.
It is more difficult to be productive in an unfavorable environment or working condition. It can be rather challenging for employees who have young children, live in a small dwelling apartment, or have little or no
access to fast internet connection and or poor mobile data coverage who will experience a productivity boost in their work or to even meet task timelines. Imagine having a lot of background activities that could distract you when having an online meeting (via Zoom, GoToMeeting, Webex, Google Hangout or any other platforms), for instance.
Staying productive when working from home
What comes out of working from home depends on how employers are able to strike a balance between their work life and home tasks. Definitely, every company had set out working/office hours and tasks to be completed within the hours. Employees are expected to know what task is expected of them to be completed and at what time.
To aid in this process, employees may keep to-do lists. With that, you know the time to get your phone recharged or get a Netflix break to watch your next movie. In fact, a dedicated employee only requires minimal supervision.
Also, employees that are given breaks or rest time tend to have enough time to unwind and ease themselves of stress.
The fact that you are working from home doesn’t imply that you have to cut connection from your colleagues completely. Definitely, there will be a point or the other when you will require their input, even if it means scheduling an impromptu conversation.
Though crises cannot be completely eradicated from life, the best that could be done is to get opportunities out of them. We can only view the transition as a redefinition of an ideal worker – whether virtual or in-office
– as someone who is focused, committed, and can balance work obligations with other activities competing for their attention. Fujitsu and Twitter (along with many other corporations), for instance, have reiterated their commitment to continue with working from home, even after the pandemic.
In other words, working from home can have both positive and negative impacts on employees’ productivity, depending on the attitude and commitment of employees and whether the team head, supervisor is capable of managing virtually too.