August 16, 2020
Original research from Recognize into working from home and employee engagement, productivity, and happiness. This article is to help team managers, human resources, and individual contributors navigate WFH.
Your alarm clock buzzes…oh no it’s 8:15am! You’re gonna be late for work! Or you are right on time. Coffee at 8:20am and at your desk by 8:30am.
These past few months have had a lot of changes for many people. I’m sure a lot of you who are reading this are working from home due to COVID-19 or maybe you’re reading this in the future and working from home is the new normal. In March, over half of employed Americans transitioned to work from home (https://zapier.com/blog/wfh-report/). According to CNBC, many companies do not expect to have staff return to the offices until September and many have not announced when or if they will be returning at all (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/24/when-major-companies-say-many-employees-will-be-back-in-the-office.html). Research has shown how workers and employers can save money as well as increase productivity and profits from people working at home, so maybe this pandemic has actually pushed some companies in a better direction.
What’s your story? Contact us and share your experience.
: to do one’s job in one’s house and not in an office building
Working from home or working remotely has become increasingly popular, and now we are living in a world where gathering people in person would be detrimental to public health. As of 2018, about 5 million Americans worked from home half-time or more (https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics). The pandemic has shown that many companies have the technology and communication tools to make work from home effective. Why commute an hour in traffic when you could just walk over to your home office and be just as or even more productive as in the office? However, in April only 7% of all employers in the U.S. offered work from home flexibility (https://www.fundera.com/resources/working-from-home-statistics#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20regular%20telecommuting,offer%20work%20from%20home%20flexibility.).
If this is true, why force employees to commute to an office where they feel less comfortable and less productive? Research shows that remote workers work 1.4 more days per month than office workers (https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/15259-working-from-home-more-productive.html). Therefore, the worry that employees will slack off and work less does not seem to be an issue.
A Chinese travel agency conducted a study to test who was more productive: office workers or remote workers? They assigned a random group of their employees to work from home for nine months.The results showed a significant increase in productivity among their remote employees. They estimated to have saved about $1,900 on furniture and space per at-home worker for the nine months of the experiment. Also, their productivity increased by 13 percent and generated about $2,000 in annual profits per remote employee (https://hbr.org/2014/01/to-raise-productivity-let-more-employees-work-from-home).
There are many different variables that can affect an employee’s productivity at home. Here’s what we found from our survey about what may increase productivity at home:
According to our survey results, we found an association between how self-motivated someone is and their productivity level at home. The more self-motivated people tended to be more productive. Obviously at home there is less direct supervision of employees, therefore you have more responsibility for motivating yourself than in the office.
Statistically significant results
Respondents who reported they had clear responsibilities also reported higher productivity levels at home. It is important that employers and supervisors communicate their expectations clearly to ensure employees are working efficiently at home. Workers without clear instructions may find themselves doing unnecessary work or wasting too much time trying to figure out what employers want them to do, because not enough detail was given to them.
Statistically significant results
We found that employee recognition plays a part in how productive an employee may be. There was a relationship between how effective an employee recognition program is and how productive an employee is at home. Therefore, it would be smart for employers to invest in establishing a formal employee recognition program at their organization. Using an online program like Recognize promotes company culture and incentivizes employees to work their hardest.
Statistically significant results
We expected the number of people/animals in the home, (e.g. number of children or pets) to be associated with less productivity. However, participants’ reports did not indicate a significant impact on productivity. It is difficult to know the accuracy of their own self-reporting, because we found the number of people you are living with and the number of children and pets you have may increase how often a worker gets distracted. Another perspective is that even though WFH employees are distracted, people tend to work more hours when they are at home, so they make up the time they lose from distractions.
“Telecommuting is a management tool just like any other. It’s time for organizations to move beyond seeing it as a family-friendly work arrangement. When done well, remote work has the potential to improve performance, increase employee satisfaction and benefit a business.”
Ravi S. Gajendran
The benefits of working from home is what makes it so appealing to employees. They can enjoy greater flexibility with their schedule and save time on commuting. 1 in 4 respondents of a study said they have quit a job due to commute time (https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/15259-working-from-home-more-productive.html). Employees are also being more productive at home, so this is a clear incentive for employers to offer work from home. 72.5% of our respondents said they are more productive at home. Two-thirds of managers report that employees who work from home increase their overall productivity (https://www.fundera.com/resources/working-from-home-statistics#:~:text=The%20number%20of%20regular%20telecommuting,offer%20work%20from%20home%20flexibility.). Therefore, working a standard 9-to-5 day in the office may become a thing of the past.
Top: March 10, 2020 Bottom: Nov. 1, 2017 taken around 7 P.M. from the same location shows a difference in the amount of traffic on Interstate 880 in Milpitas. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) image from Mercury News https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/03/10/before-and-after-coronavirus-traffic-nearly-disappears-for-commuters/
Of course, there are drawbacks to working from home. Also, there may be individual differences for how productive and satisfied employees are with working from home.
Here’s some insights from our survey about what people say is most difficult about working from home:
Although working from home can be a tough transition for some people, there are many tips and tools that can help boost your productivity at home.
Our research showed that the #1 strategy to be productive is to set specific work hours. 60.8% of our respondents chose this as a strategy they use to be productive. Keeping a schedule similar to the hours you would’ve worked in the office is important to establish structure and stay focused. Also, employers should set specific work hours for their employees, so that employees are available to communicate with their supervisors and colleagues.
Our survey results indicated that having an effective employee recognition program is associated with higher employee productivity as well as more days an employee works their hardest. Therefore, it is important that companies implement a formal employee recognition program to increase the productivity of their workers.
Utilize communication tools such as:
There are many tools to help manage your time and your tasks, such as Trello, Google Tasks, and Focus, a time management app.
Toggl – With the click of a button it allows you to track your time on a project, it reminds you to take breaks with the pomodoro timer and allows you to see what you spend most of your time doing in order to help you plan your time for future projects
We asked our survey respondents what their #1 tip for being productive at home was and here is what they said:
“Prioritize. Sometimes we can’t have a productive day because we just don’t know where to start.”
“Creating a to do list every night for the next day helps me the most.”
“Try to keep distractions to a minimum by working in a dedicated space, or a space where it’s easy to focus. And that means a space where you won’t be interrupted by others, be it family members, pets, or even personal phone calls or texts.”
“My #1 tip is to avoid getting on social media if you want to be productive.”
Not everyone is suited to working from home, so it is important you find the right type of person who will thrive working from home.
Time Doctor – an employee time tracking software that tracks how long employees spend on different tasks with tools such as reminders, screen activity recording, invoicing, etc.
Harvest – a program where you can track time and expenses, measure progress on projects, and create invoices and schedules
Trello – an online corkboard that allows you to organize tasks, projects, shared files, etc.
Asana – a program that helps with project management by allowing users to add tasks, assign them to team members, assign due dates, etc.
Ideally, companies focus on what they do best while outsourcing tools and programs they need. That’s why adding an off the shelf solution, such as Recognize (https://recognizeapp.com) helps start a program in less than a month.
“Disaster recovery is the process by which you resume business after a disruptive event.”
Working from home helps prevent the occurrence of natural disasters affecting work due to workers not all being in the same physical location. However, cybersecurity becomes more important as work is conducted on different home routers.
Here is what the Federal Trade Commission advises in order to make working from home secure:
Even after it is safe to conduct business as usual after the pandemic, many CEOs plan on keeping a significant number of staff working remotely. Mark Zuckerberg announced that he expects to have about half of his workforce working from home in 5-10 years at Facebook (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/video/2020/may/22/mark-zuckerberg-says-half-of-facebooks-staff-to-work-from-home-within-10-years-video#:~:text=Facebook%20CEO%20Mark%20Zuckerberg%20says,when%20workers%20return%20in%20July.).
There is no clear end in sight of when people will be able to safely return back to the office, and even when they can, there will most likely be less people in the office at a time. Many workers actually have enjoyed working from home and want to continue to do so even after they are able to return to the office. According to CNBC, nearly 43% of full-time American employees said this, and nearly 20% said their employer is discussing making remote work available in the future (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/04/why-many-employees-are-hoping-to-work-from-home-even-after-the-pandemic-is-over.html).
Recognize, Inc. conducted a survey of 276 people through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in order to gather information about employees currently working from home. The research in this article was largely supported by this effort.
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