Is remote work best for worker productivity? The short answer is “it depends.” Ask employees and employers — even within the same workplace or the same C-suite — and you’ll likely get different answers. Research shows that different studies and workers hold different opinions as to the ideal work setting.
In a recent study by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), for example, employees said working from home increased productivity by 7.4%, whereas managers responding to the same study believed working from home reduced productivity by 3.5%.
There’s a split among leadership as well. Older and younger bosses tend to disagree on the merits of remote work. Research by the FutureForum, a research consortium backed by Slack Technologies Inc., showed a generational divide: “executives closer to retirement age, who’ve spent decades in offices and prefer to manage workers they can see in person, differ from younger managers in their 30s and 40s, who are generally more accepting of hybrid arrangements and keen to make sure they benefit everyone.”
Is this all a matter of perception? With return-to-office mandates from tech companies including Twitter (now X) and Zoom grabbing headlines, the great debate over optimal work conditions continues…
A new normal in a post-pandemic world
What we do know is that the pandemic created a new remote normal for workplaces worldwide. As offices shuttered around the globe, companies that had never before considered remote work were forced to transition their workforces, seemingly overnight.
Today, as business hours and locations blur across geographies and time zones, remote work has become more of a business necessity in a global economy.
As conflicting research continues to surface, there are some clues as to whether workers are more productive working from home or the office. Hint: It depends upon your organization, culture, employees and the nature of the work being done. Some workers simply can’t work from home, due to their role, work style or home environment. Others excel with remote work, whereas some workers find it cumbersome and counterproductive.
A hiring and retention advantage
How should you approach remote work as an employer? After nearly three years of working remotely with the pandemic, it’s fair to say many workers are reluctant to return to the office or work for an in-person-only organization.
A study by Gallup found that just 6% of U.S. workers want to work entirely onsite. On the flip side, more than 90% of 70 million employees say they don’t want to come back to the office full time. 71% of employers affirmed this, reporting difficulty retaining workers with back-to-work mandates, as cited by a Conference Board survey.
When building and scaling teams, flexible work conditions can help to boost your ability to attract and retain top talent and, therefore, productivity.
If you have onsite requirements for remote-capable roles and struggle to attract and retain top-performing, diverse talent, it may be worth experimenting with a hybrid or remote work environment to make your workplace more attractive. Data from the FutureForum found that knowledge workers who lacked flexibility were 2.6 times more likely to look for a new job, with impacts most pronounced on women, people of color and working parents, particularly working mothers.
The best of both worlds
Unsurprisingly, a hybrid work environment can be a viable solution to bring people back to the office while offering better flexibility for increased productivity. The idea of creating a magnet, rather than a mandate strikes a balance between opposing views.
Rather than issuing a mandate, employers can create a flexible, employee-centric workplace that makes the office more attractive. In doing so, they respond to diverse needs in a way that benefits employees and the organization overall.
3 tips to boost productivity if you’re worried about remote teams
WIthout a definitive answer on what work environment is most productive, it’s fair to say there’s a time and place for both in-person and remote work. Business leaders who are interested in reaping the benefits of a remote environment, but also looking to achieve max productivity, can follow these tips.
- Look to remote companies for inspiration and guidance. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to remote work. Many tech companies post learnings from their own remote environments that you can use as a source of inspiration and protocol. Here is just a handful of resources to dig into:
- Zapier: The ultimate guide to remote work
- Basecamp: REMOTE: Office Not Required
- Automattic: This CEO runs a billion-dollar company with no offices or email
- GitLab: The Remote Playbook
- Hyper Island: Toolbox for working remotely
- Create an environment for success. If you want remote work to fail (or rely on old-school technology to support a new remote reality), it will. In order to be productive, employees need to have the right tools, technology and support from leadership. Investing in optimized tools and collaboration processes can help ensure successful outcomes.
- Make success someone’s job. As GitLab suggests in its remote playbook, appoint a champion of remote work to boost productivity among remote teams. You’ll want someone who has ample experience working with and leading remote teams, someone who is skilled in areas such as documentation, communication and working asynchronously.
The world of work has seen unprecedented change over the last few years, and it’s safe to say we’ll continue to see significant transformations in when, where and how we work. If you’re struggling with a remote or in-person-only workplace, worry not. We’re here to help you.
Contact us at [email protected] to hear how tech leaders are adapting to remote work environments, and also how they’re enticing people to come back to the office. Whether you’re on “team remote,” ” team onsite,” or in between with a hybrid model, there are tools and tactics to help optimize productivity.