Does Working From Home Increase Productivity?

Even prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, working from home was becoming increasingly commonplace. However, in the wake of the pandemic, many businesses and organizations have shifted to work from home arrangements in greater numbers than ever before — and the trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing. 

Now, the big question on everyone’s mind is does working from home increase productivity? Additionally, what are some work from home productivity tips that newly remote employees can put into practice? Read on to find out!

How does working from home impact productivity?

Work from home productivity is an important issue for newly-remote workers. For years, office-bound employees have viewed working from home as the ideal when it came to flexible work arrangements and it’s no wonder why. Less commuting, no office dress codes, and no more rigid 9 to 5 working hours are just a few of the perks most remote employees enjoy. On the other hand, working from home comes with its own unique challenges that can hamper productivity.

Most obviously, the number of distractions available to remote employees far exceeds those in a traditional office setting. From walking the dog, washing the dishes, and even watching TV, it’s easy to find any number of excuses to put off work when you’re home alone. Add a spouse, children, and pets into the mix, and the distractions — and interruptions — can multiply even more. 

The truth is that productive remote work takes a hefty amount of self-discipline and self-motivation. In an office or communal workspace, workers typically benefit from being surrounded by peers and managers who can keep them on track. So, what does the research say about work from home productivity rates? Let’s dig a little deeper. 

What does the research say about work from home productivity?

In a 2012 study, researchers found that working from home tends to have a negative impact on productivity related to “dull” tasks. However, the same study said that working from home can positively impact productivity when it comes to “creative” tasks. The difference? It all comes down to structure. 

In a less structured environment (e.g., working from home), all those distractions can easily pull our attention away from tasks we find dull or boring. On the other hand, it’s been shown that too much structure can impede creativity, which means that a relaxed work environment may boost productivity when it comes to creative work tasks. 

Another study that looked at 1,004 full-time workers (505 of them remote) found that, on average, the remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month than their in-office counterparts. That works out to 16.8 more days every year! What’s more, this study reported that, while office workers lost an average of 37 minutes of productive time to distractions each day, the remote employees only spent 27 minutes of each day distracted from their work. 

Interestingly, the study showed that those who work from home tend to take more breaks than office employees. Other studies have concluded that taking more frequent breaks can actually boost productivity rates

Tips for increasing work from home productivity

When it comes to increasing work from home productivity, there are several strategies and practices you can employ to help keep you focused and on-task. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Create a dedicated workspace
    Lack of structure can be a productivity killer and working from home can quickly start to feel like a curse if you don’t carve out a designated office or workspace. Create structure with your designated workspace by getting organized with the equipment and work accessories you need in order to be effective at your job. Try to avoid working long term from areas associated with other activities (sleeping, eating, watching TV etc.), if possible.  

    One key to long term remote work productivity is the ability to separate “work mode” from “comfort mode.” While clocking in from the couch or your bed can be a nice break from time to time, too much of it can make it hard to mentally turn off from work and truly feel relaxed in your own home. 
  • Stay connected to the team
    Another common work from home productivity pitfall is isolation from the rest of your team. Without regular check-ins, you may start to feel disconnected and, as a result, disinterested. Of course, managers can help address this by instituting regular Zoom meetups and employing communication tools like Slack. 
  • Plan your work strategically
    Start by identifying pockets of time during which you are most focused and least distracted, and plan your work accordingly. For instance, if your mornings are the most opportune times for getting deep work done, then schedule work on your highest priority and most intensive tasks before noon. 
  • Take frequent breaks
    Studies have shown that the human brain best works in bursts of focused activity, typically around an hour at a time. A good rule of thumb to take advantage of this is to take a five to 10-minute break every hour. The best way to maximize those breaks? Pull yourself away from the computer and stretch, walk, or even have a quick virtual chat with a coworker. 

At the end of the day, employees working from home can be more productive, less productive, or equally productive as office workers. As a manager or organizational leader, one great way to track the productivity of both remote and in-office workers is with a work management platform like Wrike. Want to see exactly how Wrike’s tools can help you monitor and stay connected with employees working from home? Start a free two-week trial right now by filling out the form below!

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