Working from home (WFH) has risen in popularity over the last few years. Though it was steadily gaining traction during the past decade, the events of the pandemic pushed up the timetable for adoption among more businesses. Many businesses have recognized the benefits of having a more satisfied workforce and lower office overheads. However, there are some that remain uncertain about adopting WFH in the long run.
There can be various reasons for this. However, one of the primary sticking points for a lot of companies is whether workers can be productive from home. There has certainly been a lot of press and opinions on both sides of the discussion. Still, if you’re going to commit to remote or hybrid operations, it’s important to gain a better understanding of what this could mean to the efficiency and efficacy of your workforce.
Let’s explore some key WFH productivity statistics and what you should know about them.
When discussing the potential for remote operations to improve productivity, it’s important to understand what you’re measuring. The root of many of the disagreements about whether working from home is more productive often hinges on what is actually considered to be productive.
WFH productivity statistics tend to describe whether the results remote employees have achieved during the hours they work in the average day are greater than when they’re in the office environment. On this basis, many companies are reporting that there have been significant upticks. One recent report from a Stanford economics researcher found that, on average, productivity for remote workers rose by around 3.3%. Looking at more specific WFH productivity statistics, Prodoscore found that among 30,000 of its remote working software users, telephone calling was up 230%, customer relationship management (CRM) system activity was up 176%, and email activity was up 57%.
However, it’s also important to recognize that these types of metrics, which largely pertain to efficiency, are not the only elements to consider. In determining whether WFH practices are likely to be beneficial for your business, you need to dive a little deeper. Your company needs to look at statistics of aspects that tend to have direct or incidental influences on productivity, too. This is why we’re going to next look at some statistics associated with other vital areas of review.
Among the key influencers of productivity in remote operations is employee engagement. This is also one of the primary challenges businesses face in transitioning to WFH or hybrid situations. Many companies are concerned that when employees aren’t in the office they have less motivation or can become disengaged. This is either because there is a belief that, without direct supervision, workers aren’t likely to commit to their work. Others feel that being surrounded by colleagues or a structured environment is more conducive to meaningful connection. But do the statistics reflect this?
Well, one two-year study from Stanford University in 2017 found that remote workers tended to be 9% more engaged than in-office workers. However, it’s also important to recognize that there are some statistics that suggest the opposite is true. A recent Forbes report referred to a study that found 94% of executives surveyed felt remote employees were less connected. Though, perhaps the most vital thing to note is that the 2017 study comes from first-hand evidence from workers themselves while the latter was based on the opinions of company leaders about their employees.
It’s worth considering that remote work in itself isn’t innately good or bad for employee engagement. Rather, it’s the approach businesses take to the process that impacts how likely workers are to stay engaged. As such, it’s important to shape remote practices around encouraging meaningful connections. Implement regular employee engagement surveys to understand where issues lie and what your workers need to thrive.
Another key influencer of WFH productivity statistics is employee turnover. Your company’s ability to remain efficient relies on having a relatively consistent workforce. Not to mention that longer term employees tend to be more committed to your business, which can spur innovation and strong performance. If employees aren’t satisfied with the conditions of your business in relation to remote operations, it stands to reason that they may be more likely to resign in favor of an in-person position elsewhere or a company that treats its WFH workers more respect.
But, what are the WFH statistics in relation to worker turnover and retention? A 2017 Owl Labs study found that companies that support remote work see 25% lower turnover than those that don’t. This should be no surprise. After all, one of the key characteristics many workers look for in a position is a sense of flexibility. That said, it’s important to recognize that the key word in this WFH productivity statistic is “support.” A company that simply offers remote work may be less likely to have as positive retention numbers as one that genuinely supports its remote workers.
The level of support you provide workers can take a variety of forms. An increasing number of businesses are supportive on a financial level by providing workers a monthly stipend to take care of work-related utilities and essential equipment. Your support may also come in the form of providing access to telemedical mental health services to help employees navigate difficult periods. Another key area of support is subsidized education and development through eLearning courses.
The influencers of productivity aren’t just those related to individual workers. The efforts of the entire company have a role to play in the overall success of the business. As such, it’s important to understand how remote operations affect the collaborative actions of your business. In some ways, it can seem as though WFH is naturally not as conducive to collaboration as on-site operations. After all, having everyone in the same place at the same time should cultivate teamwork. But is there evidence to support this assumption?
A 2021 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that a shift to firmwide remote work “caused workers’ collaboration networks to become more heavily siloed.” This certainly suggests that the information workers the study followed found it less practical to engage in effective forms of collaboration and communication. That said, an ADP Research Institute report on 9000 remote workers from the same year found that 62% remote workers are more likely to say their team is collaborative, compared to 47% of on-site workers.
As with so many aspects of productivity, it may be the case that remote workers’ experiences of collaboration are dependent on the businesses they work for. This means that it’s vital for companies with remote workers to put tools and protocols in place to support effective teamwork. This may include investing in effective online project management software or digital whiteboards that ensure all employees can be meaningful contributors no matter where they are. It can also involve regular group video calls and team building exercises that help keep colleagues more connected and functional.
When you’re considering WFH productivity statistics, it’s important to look at a range of areas. After all, alongside the traditional metrics of efficiency, there are different characteristics that can contribute to overall productivity. Your employee engagement, turnover, and collaboration are some of the key aspects to examine. However, it’s important to recognize that, in many cases, such statistics are subjective. The efforts your business makes to support your remote workers tends to have a significant impact on productivity and — ultimately — your success.