Why Do Some People Think We’re Still More Productive at the Office?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the work world and forced businesses to embrace remote working, many companies were already in the process of allowing employees to work from home. Even in the pre-COVID world, telecommuting arrangements were an inevitability for many organizations. Increased access to high-speed Internet, cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools, and the ability to work from a wide array of devices has made remote work an attractive choice for employees. That’s not to mention the many environmental benefits of avoiding daily commutes and the reduced office costs for businesses.
Remote work has shown to have many benefits, including higher job satisfaction, increased productivity, and a healthier work-life balance. In fact, the majority of American office workers have reported that they would leave their job for one that offers more flexible work time and an improved work-life balance.
Despite the proven benefits of work from home arrangements and the desire of employees to have more flexibility, the idea still exists that employees are more productive in an office environment. While it’s true that some people may not thrive in a remote working environment, the idea has stopped too many businesses from exploring remote working arrangements. With remote work being such an important part of many businesses, why is this attitude still so prevalent?
Remote Work at IBM: There and Back Again
In March 2017, IBM, a pioneer of remote working, suddenly pulled thousands of its workers back into physical office buildings. This came after years of hosting remote workforces, with employees in over 170 countries working from home. Remote work allowed IBM employees to experience unparalleled freedom at a time when few other employers saw it as a realistic option. The company was even able to reduce office space by over 70 million square feet and sell some of its office buildings for nearly $2 billion in profit.
At the time, the decision by IBM was seen as a desperation move that would allow the company to recover from consistently falling revenue, though IBM representatives stated that the move was made in order to bring team members shoulder to shoulder with the goal of making teams more creative, powerful, and effective. The decision by IBM was followed closely by similar moves by several other large companies, including Yahoo, Best Buy, and Aetna.
No matter what the reason for these shakeups, many employers have used IBM’s decision as an example of remote work failure, and thus as a reason not to make the change to their working arrangements. This domino effect is now being reversed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the same companies are embracing remote work again - some, like Twitter, have said that some employees will be working from home “indefinitely.”
Common arguments against remote work
The biggest argument made against remote work is its potential effect on employee productivity. Many employers have expressed concerns about the distractions found at home and the difficulty for employees to stay motivated. Contrary to this common belief, the majority of employees working from home report that being able to create their own working environment and concentrate on the task at hand has made them more productive than they would be in a traditional office setting. It is true that there are some that will not be able to do it at first, but we are very adaptable and most employees will shape up if it is pointed out that they are being less productive - you just have to have the right tools to track their progress.
Another one of the major arguments made against remote work tends to be that it stifles the ability of teams to collaborate. Many believe that without working together directly, teams could have a more difficult time collaborating, and thus team projects could see a drop in quality. Modern businesses have increasingly placed emphasis on the importance of effective collaboration and communication, and with remote team members potentially reporting from different time zones and working more flexible schedules, some employers have expressed concerns about the switch to remote work.
In addition to concerns about collaboration and communication, some employees have reported that they have a difficult time unplugging from work in their free time. While remote work has been seen to improve work-life balance in many cases, the inability to unplug is a valid concern for some. Loneliness has been cited as another employee concern, as working from home means not having face-to-face connections or talking to colleagues regularly.
How technology has improved remote working outcomes
Studies about remote work continue to show that employees are happier and more productive while working from home, and are more likely to stay with a company that gives them the option to work remotely. On top of this, common concerns about remote work’s effects on productivity, collaboration, communication, and loneliness have been directly addressed by drastic improvements in workplace technology solutions.
Cloud-based productivity solutions like G Suite and Microsoft Office 365 give teams a way to collaborate and communicate on documents, presentations, slide shows, and more, all in real time. Remote teams can launch video and audio conference calls with the click of a button, bringing together employees from all around the world to participate in brainstorming sessions, broadcast sales pitches to clients, and even play games and chat to tackle feelings of loneliness.
Productivity, too, can be directly addressed by business intelligence tools like Prodoscore, which gleans critical information about employee productivity in common workplace office, CRM, and communications solutions, assigning each employee a Productivity Score™. With access to this information, you’ll be able to greatly improve revenue results, enhance employee coaching, build trust across remote teams, and increase employee retention, taking the fear and uncertainty out of remote work.
While some employers continue to believe that employees are more productive in the office, studies are consistently showing that employees crave the freedom and flexibility of working from home and are happier and more productive when given the ability to do so.
With workplace technology solutions improving remote working outcomes by enhancing collaboration and communication and giving business leaders critical insight into remote employee productivity, the time has come for businesses to look to the future and embrace remote work.
For more information about how Prodoscore can help you manage remote employees, contact us today.