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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

Working From Home Increases Productivity

image for baranq/Shutterstock
baranq/Shutterstock
  • Remote workers take longer breaks on average, but they remain productive for an additional 10 minutes per day.
  • Remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year.
  • 29% of remote employees said they struggle with work-life balance, and 31% said they have needed to take a day off for their mental health.

Starting your workday without having to get out of your pajamas may seem like a fairytale arrangement for some, but for a growing number of Americans, it's normal. More people are searching for jobs with flexible work arrangements that give them the option of telecommuting when looking for new opportunities. To better understand the benefits and pitfalls of working from home for businesses and employees alike, researchers polled Americans who work from home about their lifestyles and how they compare to their traditional office-dwelling counterparts.

Released earlier this month by Airtasker, the survey polled 1,004 full-time employees throughout the U.S. about their productivity, their commutes and other facets of their lives. Among that group were 505 people who worked remotely.

Researchers found that working from home not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes, it also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles. It's a win-win situation that workers relish for its flexibility – but often at the cost of their work-life balance.

With all the modern comforts of home beckoning for our attention, it would be understandable if remote workers saw a dip in productivity, yet the opposite is true. According to the Airtasker study, telecommuters "worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year" than people who worked in an office.

Researchers found that, along with spending more time doing work, remote employees lost 27 minutes per day on distractions, as opposed to the 37 minutes distracted office workers lost. The survey also found that just 8% of remote employees and 6% of office workers reported finding it hard to focus on their tasks. Researchers also found that office workers took shorter breaks than remote workers, though longer breaks have been shown to increase productivity.

The most effective ways for remote employees to stay productive, according to the survey, were to take breaks (37%), have set working hours (33%) and keep a to-do list (30%).

As a small business owner, it may be tempting for you to implement screen or mouse tracking software to make sure your workers remain focused on their work. However, researchers found that kind of micromanagement resulted in 39% of respondents who work remotely and 56% of office employees seeking out ways to avoid doing work. Of those employees who said they actively tried to avoid work, 51% of remote workers and 44% of office employees were caught.

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One of the biggest benefits that employees gain through working remotely is the fact that they no longer have to commute to work. Commuting has led at least 1 in 4 respondents to quit a job. In fact, many workers said they would be willing to give up a lot of things to end their commute.

The average American's commute is now nearly half an hour. That much time on the road means workers are spending more money on fuel, not to mention maintenance and repair costs due to the wear and tear on their vehicles. According to researchers, the average remote worker saved more than $4,500 on yearly fuel costs. The lack of a daily commute also led to a slight decrease in maintenance costs, with remote workers spending $55 per month versus the $59 per month office workers spent.

Along with the cost savings, respondents said they noticed that they had more free time once their commutes were eliminated. On average, employees said they had an extra 17 days' worth of free time as a result.

Some of that regained time has gone to healthier exercise habits. According to researchers, remote employees spent two hours and 44 minutes on physical exercise each week, marking a 25-minute increase over office workers.

Despite the health benefits, researchers found that working from home can be more stressful than working at the office. Approximately 29% of telecommuting respondents said they had a hard time maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Just 23% of office workers reported the same struggle.

In addition, 54% of remote workers and 49% of office workers said they felt "overly stressed during the workday," 45% of remote workers and 42% of office workers "experienced high levels of anxiety during the workday," and 37% of remote workers and 35% of office workers said they "procrastinated on a task until its deadline."

One of the downsides of working from home is that it can be more difficult to connect with your co-workers. According to the study, 70% of respondents said maintaining relationships with their co-workers was just as important as their jobs. Only 19% said they prioritized work over relationships, while the remaining 11% said co-worker relationships were a higher priority.

While it's nice to be friends with your co-workers, researchers found that such relationships can be a distraction. Office workers spent an average of 66 minutes per day discussing non-work topics, while remote employees only spent 29 minutes doing the same. Managers were found to be particularly distracting, as they were found to spend nearly 70 minutes talking about non-work topics compared to the 38 minutes spend on average by non-managers.

Managerial distraction, as a result, affected remote workers less than their office-based co-workers at 15% and 22%, respectively.

Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining Business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. Currently, he is responsible for reviewing tax software and online fax services. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.