Now that many people are working remotely, businesses are questioning whether working from home increases productivity or reduces it. If it increases productivity, this could help transition more people out of the office to work from home. Although employees have more freedom in how they manage their time, studies suggest this has a positive effect on overall productivity. Contrary to what you may have thought, people actually waste less time at home. While this may not be true for all of us, it may have an impact on how companies structure their workforce.
What the Research Says About Working from Home
Prodoscore, a California-based software company, conducted research to examine the workforce trends as more people work remotely. Their analysts compared data from 30,000 of its users from March/April 2020 to the same time frame in 2019. According to the statistics, they found a 47% increase in workers’ productivity. There were several data points they compared to draw these conclusions. For example, the number of phone calls went up 230%, email activity increased 57%, and messaging chats on internal platforms rose 9%.
However, it is important to remember that several variables impact the numbers to determine if working from home increases productivity. For instance, time of day and the day of the week greatly affect performance. On average, people’s average start time was 8:32 a.m. and end time 5:38 p.m. However Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are most productive for workers, in that order. Productivity decreases drastically on Fridays and Mondays. The window of time between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. is when workers are the most active.
Another Airtasker survey from 2019 interviewed 1,004 full-time workers, approximately half of whom were remote workers. They discovered that people worked 1.4 more days each month from home, largely due to no commute. Over the course of time, it adds up to 16.8 more days a year. Workers felt they had more free time without the daily commute. Many also said they would be willing to make concessions to continue working from home in the future.
How Working from Home Has Affected My Productivity
Like any major change, it took time to adjust. Although I have been working from home for years, the transition was not a smooth one. In the beginning, my productivity severely decreased because I was easily distracted. I had become used to supervisors or managers checking in on my progress. Working from home, no one was there to keep me on task. So, I could easily flit from one household chore to the next, or lose time scrolling through social media.
Once the decreased productivity affected my income, I took measures to improve. My greatest challenge was focusing on my work. It was hard to focus without dedicated office space and constant foot traffic. To fix this major obstacle, I set up desk space and began working late into the evenings when everyone was sleeping. Although I miss workplace collaboration and socializing with coworkers, I would likely also make concessions to continue working from home. With a few minor tweaks in my work environment and my schedule, I also found that working from home increases my productivity.
How to Increase Productivity Working from Home
One of the hardest parts of working from home is maintaining separation between your work and home life. Trying to do too much at once means your attention is divided. Therefore, the overall quality of the work is compromised. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to focus and prove that working from home increases productivity.
Maintain a Separate Work Space
The first thing you must do is find a quiet spot to set up your home office. You need to create boundaries to manage your time at work and at home. Maintaining a separate workspace is vital for a professional environment. Get into a routine and condition yourself to do certain tasks in designated areas. While you want to be comfortable during the workday, you should avoid working from the bed or the couch. Scientists have long warned us of the negative effects of working from bed. So, it is better to create good habits at the beginning that promote productivity.
Keep to a Regular Schedule
Keeping a regular schedule also assists in the transition out of the office. It also lets your family know when you are available to take care of things at home. Furthermore, it defines the time when you need to focus on work responsibilities. Plan your day strategically, utilizing the hours you are most productive to take on more difficult tasks. Some people, like me, find it is easier to do the boring, more mundane tasks during busier times of the day. Following a schedule also makes it easier to confine work stress to hours you are on the clock, and make the most of your personal time when you are not.
Take Breaks to Increase Productivity
You should also schedule and actually take your breaks during the workday. Your mind and body need time to recharge and decompress. Since you have more flexibility when working from home, step away from your desk. Break up the day and get outside for some fresh air. Short breaks boost overall productivity by preventing burnout. A simple change of environment can reduce tension when problems arise and help you approach them with a new perspective.
Stay Connected to Your Coworkers
Human resources are an under-valued asset in many companies. The way people communicate and cooperate in a professional atmosphere builds cohesion. The bonds we create with our coworkers have boosted both efficiency and productivity.
However, one aspect that we have lost while working from home is social interactions with our coworkers. We are no longer able to catch up around the water cooler or vent to your workplace bestie over coffee. But, it is still important to engage face to face interactions as often as possible. It’s easy to use technology to recreate these social interactions and make us feel less isolated from one another. Although you may not be able to meet in the conference room, you can schedule Zoom calls with your team. Another option is to reach out through in-house messaging, schedule a daily phone call, or Facetime during one of your breaks. One reason working from home increases productivity is the convenience of digital connections.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.