As the number of Americans working from home increases, so does the amount of work they’re getting done. This wasn’t quite true of work-from-home productivity a decade ago as telecommuting first emerged, but it’s certainly true now. And given the rapid increase in the number of remote teams amid the COVID-19 pandemic, modern work-from-home productivity statistics are more meaningful than ever.
A groundbreaking study conducted from May 2020 through March 2021 shows the positive effects of widespread shifts to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study, which the University of Chicago and the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology conducted jointly, found work-from-home productivity superior to in-office productivity. The study comprised 30,000 participants ages 20 to 64 who had annual salaries of at least $20,000 in 2019.
Among the study’s participants, 40% found their work-from-home productivity greater than their in-person productivity. Only 15% of respondents felt the opposite. Participants who fared better working from home found their productivity increased by an average of 7%. Additionally, 60% of participants were more productive at home than expected, with 14% of participants saying the opposite.
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The study’s authors used these results to determine the potential impacts on the entire U.S. workforce. They found that up to a 5% national increase in productivity could be possible with increasing rates of remote work.
A 2011 survey from CareerBuilder found that 35% of those telecommuting rather than visiting the office worked eight or more hours a day, up nearly 20% from four years before that.
Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said at the time that the use of smartphones and advanced network technology made access to the office easier than ever, resulting in more companies embracing the work-from-home option and more workers putting in full-time hours from their own homes.
In 2011, telecommuters were split as to whether their time was better spent at home or at the office. In CareerBuilder’s 2011 survey, only 29% of respondents reported getting more work done from home. But as mobile devices and digital communications software have improved, remote workers now feel differently.
While talkative co-workers and the allure of the vending machine can be distractions at the office, those who work from home named household chores as the biggest interruptions in their workday. Television, pets, errands, children and the lure of the internet also made the list.
As the survey revealed that 30% of telecommuters were working from home in their pajamas, Haefner advised keeping a normal routine to improve efficiency.
Remote workers in 2021 feel they are more productive than ever, far outpacing their counterparts from 10 years ago.
Although working from home feels different from working in a traditional office, it’s clear that remote productivity is feasible, if not inevitable. If high remote productivity still feels out of reach, here are some tips to increase it.
Haefner also advised finding a spot to work with minimal distractions, keeping in regular contact with colleagues to help you focus on the job, and scheduling short breaks to take care of chores, play with pets, or run a brief errand if necessary. She said telecommuters will be less likely to stop work early if they structure the perks of being at home appropriately into their schedules.
Remote team productivity is attainable. It might even be better than your team’s performance in the office. And if it ever starts fading, look back at the above tips and statistics. They’ll give you just the burst of motivation you need.
Chad Brooks contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.