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Remote Work Boosts Productivity and Happiness


Remote work is a safety reality as the world works its way through the Coronavirus pandemic. With early results showing productivity has not suffered, but instead arguably increased, enterprises are looking to continue the practice even after the Coronavirus-need is over. Saving millions on office space isn’t so bad either.

However, there is a stronger motive driving the bright future of remote work – people get more done, and do so happily. As result, the organization thrives, and employee satisfaction and company longevity gets a nice boost.

Remote Work is Productive Work

Airtasker, a task work platform, reached out to 1,004 full-time workers, over 500 of whom worked remotely, and found remote workers are actually more productive. Here is what the survey found: 

  • “Remote employees work an additional 1.4 more days per month than in-office employees, which is nearly 17 additional workdays a year.
  • Remote employees take longer breaks on average than office employees (22 minutes versus 18 minutes, respectively), but they work an additional 10 minutes a day.
  • Office workers are unproductive for an average 37 minutes a day, not including lunch or breaks, whereas remote employees are unproductive for only 27 minutes.
  • 15% of remote workers said their boss distracted them from work, which is less than the 22% of office-based employees who said the same thing.” 

The lesson here is that, prior to COVID-19 at least, many employers demanded work be done in the office because they THOUGHT it was the best, that is was more productive, fostered teamwork and camaraderie, and was part of the corporate culture.

All those attributes can and do exist, but do not negate the fact that remote employees can serve the precise same goals – and do it more cheaply (no cost per square foot) and happily.

More common remote work may allow organizations to tackle one of the biggest shortcomings of being home all the time. Remote workers often endure more stress because they do not know when to shut off – and simply work all the time (thus the productivity boost). This puts the work/life balance utterly out of whack. However, when remote work is more the rule, managers and corporate policies can guide workers to take breaks, knock off when the job is done, and spend more time on personal activities – even just doing nothing. In fact, the American Psychological Association believes remote work boosts work satisfaction when done for a supportive and understanding employer.

Workers Themselves May Not Turn Back

The choice of whether to continue remote work does not rest entirely in the hands of employer.

Buffer is a brand awareness company with some 85 employees – all of whom work remotely. Its 2019 Remote Workers Study found that a good 99% of remote employees want to keep working this way for the rest of their careers – a number that increased 9% (it was 90% in that report) from their 2018 survey.

The following graphic shows why workers love remote so much, according Buffer:

Remote work was well on in its way without a boost from the Coronavirus, according to a report on web site Hackernoon. “Rewind to before the pandemic, in the last decade or so the remote workforce increased by at least 159% making e-econ an already growing sector. Employers find that remote work causes an increase in employee morale by 90%, reduces operating costs by 77%, and reduces sick days by 50%. Employees were found to be 57% more likely to be satisfied with their job and felt that they were more productive, and less stressed,” the web site found. 

A World Economic Forum (WEC) article Companies Benefit When Employees Work Remotely looked at data from the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School. “Researchers compared the outcomes of flexible work arrangements at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The team found that employees with liberal ‘work from anywhere’ arrangements, similar to those offered at Akamai, NASA, and Github, among others, were 4.4 percent more productive than those following a more traditional ‘work-from-home’ policy that gives schedule flexibility but requires workers to live near the office,” the WEF found.

Meanwhile, a report from The Centre for Economics and Business Research did a report measuring the economic benefits of remote policies across the U.S. The survey found that remote work is great for employees and employer alike.

“On any given day, the average employee spends nearly 65% of their time on busy work and in meetings, 20% searching for information and just 15% — or 1.2 hours a day — on the meaningful and rewarding work they were hired to do,” Tim Minahan, executive vice president of business strategy at Citrix, told  CNBC Make It. “We’ve essentially taken our highly-trained knowledge workers and turned them into task rabbits, who, when grappling with long commutes and distractions that come with working in an office environment, find themselves rushing, stressed out and less productive,” Minahan said.

The report takes a macro view as well, arguing that the dramatic move to remote work will likely add $2.6 trillion to the U.S. economy, boosting U.S. GDP by over 10%. Much of this value comes from hiring workers who need to be remote, and never had that option.

Finally, a CoinDesk article Remote Working Proves Unexpected Hero as half of US Economy Shifts to Home Offices sees a fundamental economic and societal shift in the making. “People are talking about how this is going to be the fourth industrial revolution with different technologies changing fundamentally how we work,” Jennifer Christie, Head of People for Twitter who spearheaded Twitter’s move to remote work in March, told CoinDesk.

CoinDesk’s own research found that “some 48 percent of the $17.8 trillion of U.S. national income in 2019 came from industries where many jobs could conceivably be done remotely. (National income, or the value of all goods and services produced by U.S. businesses and individuals, is similar to gross domestic product, or GDP.) Those include finance, insurance, real estate, rental, leasing, information and professional and business services, using the categories provided by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. They also include government services,” CoinDesk concluded. 

Finally, research from the University of Chicago in March, as the quarantine first took hold, showed over a third of US jobs, accounting for 44 percent of wages, could be just as easily and effectively done remotely.

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