Working from home doesn’t reduce employee productivity, and could actually enhance employee and company resiliency.
Remote working — the luckiest among us have taken it up during the pandemic. But employers around the world are worried that working from home might make their employees work less. New research comes to report that such fears are unfounded: according to the findings, remote work does not negatively impact workplace productivity in any way.
From the comfort of our homes
“In the future, there will be a greater percentage of the workforce who is involved in some sort of office-style technology work activities,” said Mark Benden, director of the Texas A&M University School of Public Health Ergonomics Center. “Almost all of the study’s employees were right back up to the same level of output as they were doing before Hurricane Harvey. This is a huge message right now for employers because we’re having national debates about whether or not employees should be able to work remotely or in a hybrid schedule.”
The team worked with a large oil and gas company based in Houston, Texas, to analyze ergonomic software data from 264 employees. The period when this data was recorded also included a period when the company closed its offices due to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, and its employees transitioned to long-term remote work. Alongside this, the team also looked at the same type of data recorded before and after the hurricane.
Among the participants whose behavior was tracked, 68% worked in engineering, 9% in finance and trading, and 23% in HR and corporate operations. On average, they spent a total of 11.1 hours at work per day, 3.4 of which were ‘active hours’.
They found that although total computer use time did not decline among workers during the hurricane (as they were transitioning to working remotely), “active computer use significantly declined”. However, their behavior and output completely returned to pre-hurricane levels during the seven-month period they worked remotely. During this time, the employees showed “an increase in both the total amount of time worked and the number of active hours worked”. This, the team explains, suggests that remote working does not impact workplace productivity.
Such a conclusion is further supported by the fact that as the employees were returning to the workplace, data showed a decline in total worked hours and active hours both. Once this transition was complete, however, the number of total hours worked and active hours worked returned to normal.
Such results should help inform and shape corporate policies, the team explains. Far from being something employers should fear, remote work has the potential to “improve [the] resiliency of employees to perform workplace tasks”, especially during events that force corporations to close down or relocate their offices.
The paper “Impact of workplace displacement during a natural disaster on computer performance metrics: A 2-year interrupted time series analysis” has been published in the journal Work.