- Allowing employees to work remotely can increase their productivity.
- Research shows that employees working remotely can save $4,500 on commuting costs annually.
- One of the most effective ways workers can stay productive is by taking breaks throughout the day.
- This article is for business owners who want to learn more about remote worker productivity.
Tech developments paved the way for many employees and business owners to work from home for years, and the pandemic prompted a sharp increase in remote work. Working at home is now the norm for many Americans, but is this working arrangement productive?
Research from Ergotron says yes. Researchers polled 1,000 remote and hybrid employees in the U.S. about their productivity, wellness and other life facets. They found that working from home improves work-life balance, increases productivity and fosters healthier lifestyles. It’s a win-win situation that workers relish for its flexibility.
We’ll look at how working from home boosts productivity and how to stay efficient while managing working relationships remotely.
How does working from home increase productivity?
With all the modern comforts of home beckoning our attention, it would be understandable if employers saw a productivity dip in remote workers. However, the opposite is true. In fact, remote workers appear to be working longer hours while enjoying a healthier work-life balance and reduced stress.
- Remote workers are working longer hours. Ergotron’s study found that 40% of employees work longer hours at home than when in the office. And data from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows these extended workdays are, on average, about 48.5 minutes longer. For full-time employees, this time could add up to more than 193 additional working hours in a year.
- Remote workers have an improved work-life balance. Perhaps surprisingly, at the same time, 75% of Egotron survey respondents said their work-life balance has improved since they’ve been working from home. In fact, data from Future Forum corroborates this notion. In April 2022, Future Forum found that remote employees have twice as much work-life balance as full-time office workers.
- Remote workers experience less stress. A 2020 Nitro study also identified trends toward reduced workplace stress among remote workers. In that study, 29% of remote respondents said they were moderately stressed at work, down from 33% in 2019 when office work was the norm. The study also showed the number of employees who felt “extremely” stressed while working has declined. This figure fell from 17% in 2019 to 15% in 2020 as work shifted from in person to at home.
Fostering a positive work-life balance is a way to keep employees happy – and happier employees are more creative, work smarter and are more productive.
How can workers become more productive at home?
While remote employees report decreased stress levels, workplace stress, pressure and anxiety haven’t dissipated entirely. As remote employees work longer days, balancing their work and life responsibilities is crucial to their mental health and the business’s success.
Here are some tips to help employees combat stress while maintaining their productivity.
1. Take breaks to reduce stress and boost productivity.
Remote workers often take fewer breaks than their in-office colleagues, but taking breaks is one of the most effective ways for remote employees to stay productive.
Encourage your workers to get up periodically during the workday, especially when they’re particularly drained or distracted. They can grab a healthy snack, take a walk, call a friend, meditate, etc.
Many people find success using the Pomodoro Technique, which follows this method:
- Choose a task.
- Work on it for 25 minutes.
- Put a checkmark on a sheet of paper after the 25-minute period ends.
- Take a five-minute break. (This marks the completion of one “Pomodoro” sprint.)
- After every four Pomodoro sprints, take a longer break.
- Continue this throughout the day until your workday is over.
This technique can help your employees decompress and come back more focused.
2. Follow a schedule for a more productive day.
Another technique to help employees stay productive at home is designating set work hours. Encourage employees to maintain the same schedule they did when they worked in the office. Following a routine will help your workers feel more structured and efficient, and it will help keep their attention focused.
Help remote employees figure out their most productive work times and plan their tasks around these productivity peaks.
3. Use optimized tools to boost productivity.
According to the Nitro report, many employees found that some tasks became slightly more challenging after transitioning to remote work. That was true even of simple tasks such as signing and editing PDF documents.
Ensure your remote team has the proper tools to do their jobs away from the office. For example, host short training sessions on specific software applications, implement remote business collaboration apps and install remote working tools that foster communication.
Tip: The best remote PC access software can help remote employees get assistance from in-office IT team members and resolve tech issues quickly.
4. Keep a to-do list to stay productive.
To-do lists can help increase productivity among remote employees. Encourage employees to use small business organization apps to note what they wish to accomplish daily so they’re not jumping from assignment to assignment.
When you and your team work remotely, communication is critical. Set daily or weekly meetings to discuss and prioritize projects and set deadlines so you can stay on track.
5. Eliminate distractions to stay focused and productive.
Distracted workers cost businesses time and money. While the Nitro report suggests that remote employees have more control over their workdays than in-office employees, distractions can still arise at home.
Text messages, phone calls and social media are all distractions at-home employees may face. Encourage remote workers to silence their phones, create a workspace that improves productivity and stay away from areas of their home that may tempt them to direct their attention elsewhere.
Consider using one of the best employee monitoring solutions to ensure remote workers are productive and safe.
What are the benefits of working remotely?
Some of the biggest benefits of working remotely include eliminating the commute, building healthier habits and reducing illness.
- Remote work eliminates the commute. Eliminating the commute is one of the biggest benefits of working remotely. A 2020 FlexJobs survey found that 79% of respondents said no longer having to commute was a big plus of remote work. The average American spends more than $4,500 yearly on commuting costs, including fuel and auto maintenance. Fully remote workers stand to save this entire amount and eliminate the stress of battling traffic congestion. Additionally, remote work helps the environment by decreasing the number of people taking cars, trains and buses to and from the office.
- Remote work fosters healthy habits. Ergotron’s survey suggests remote employees can fit their work around other aspects of their lives since they don’t have to factor in commuting times. For example, some remote employees have found more time to build healthier exercise habits. According to researchers, 50% of remote employees take time to run or walk outdoors. About 35% of remote employees can now work out at home.
- Remote workers avoid office germs. Additionally, sickness spreads quickly among co-workers sharing the same office space. Offices are typically packed with people who work in close proximity to one another and share germs without even realizing it. Allowing your team to work from home helps stop the spread of illnesses among staff members and their families.
How can you manage relationships when working from home?
One of the downsides of working from home is that it can be challenging for employees to connect with their co-workers. Research from Microsoft found that long-term remote work can adversely affect employees’ relationships with their colleagues. Microsoft found that remote employees have reported missing the informal conversations that occur in the lunchroom and office hallways.
As an employer, consider using video conferencing or a virtual phone system such as Grasshopper to get your employees together at least once a week. (Read our Grasshopper review to learn more.) This will keep remote workers engaged and help everyone feel like they’re still part of the same team.
Read our reviews of the best video conferencing services to find a system that fits your needs and budget.
What are the potential downsides of working from home?
While working remotely offers benefits, it also has disadvantages. Below are some of the possible downsides that can come with working at home.
- Lack of motivation: Connecting with like-minded colleagues can encourage employees to share ideas and push them to set and achieve career goals. However, due to decreased social interaction, employees might lose motivation more quickly than when working in an office. And without a manager physically present, it can be more challenging for employees to spark some motivation among themselves.
- Potential for burnout: The increased time spent working daily can lead remote workers to burn out more quickly than in-office employees. Newer employees might find it difficult to draw a clear line between work and personal time. As a result, they could experience workplace burnout more quickly – and severely.
- Less performance feedback: Without in-person supervision, it can be easy to overlook how remote employees can improve their performance. While they may have completed a task, did they go about it the right way? At-home employees don’t have managers walking by their desks offering advice about improving their process.
- Limited access to office equipment: Office employees can easily walk to the supply cabinet and grab what they need. However, remote employees have limited access to work supplies. Equipment such as standing desks, fax machines, and business and consumer laptops can be expensive, but they may be essential for remote employees.
Bringing new meaning to “out of office”
As trends emerge around work environments, employees and employers are finding new ways to keep productivity levels high. Allowing employees to work remotely can boost their morale while ensuring your company meets – or exceeds – its previous efficiency rates. And with these tips to further increase your remote employees’ productivity, your team can accomplish new goals while enjoying their time at your company.
Sammi Caramela contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.