How Effective is Remote Work?

effective remote work

The way most people work has undergone a huge shift because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of us now working and studying from home full-time.

With this change, it’s uncertain whether a return to the traditional office environment will ever happen. One of the biggest concerns about remote working has always been whether it makes people less productive, but is that really the case?

LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index – a biweekly survey which recently garnered results from 2,215 professionals over the weeks of 13-19 April and 27 April to 3 May – found 66 percent of those surveyed said they are effectively working from home, while 55 percent believe their wider industry will operate effectively via remote working.

Benefits of working remotely

Remote work was growing in popularity even before COVID-19. More than four million people work from home in the US at least half of the time, and that number has increased more than 40 per cent in the last five years. 

Employees value the option to work remotely, and with flexibility comes a more positive outlook. A 2017 study found the average worker was willing to accept eight percent less pay if they were able to work from home, indicating workers assign the flexibility of a WFH policy with monetary value.

Work-from-anywhere policies have also gained traction in the past few years, with geographic flexibility possessing even more value for employees.

According to data by RescueTime, knowledge workers, software developers, and IT professionals are all more productive when they work from home. This was true both at small and medium businesses and large companies (over 500 employees).

RescueTime’s data also found remote workers had a four percent increase in average daily time spent on their core work and an 18 percent decrease in time spent on communication (compared to office workers). 

Complementing this, a two-year study held by Nicholas Bloom, professor at Stanford University (and courtesy professor of economics at Stanford Graduate Business School) suggests now is the time to embrace and enable the befits of working from home.

Bloom’s research discovered a huge productivity boost – the equivalent to a full day’s work – among telecommuters from the study. Work-from-home employees were working a real-time full-shift compared to employees leaving the office early or arriving to work late a few times a week, with many finding it easier to concentrate at home and less distracting.  

Employee attrition decreased by 50 percent too, as the telecommuters took less time off, had fewer sick days, and took shorter breaks.

An added bonus of remote work is of course reduced carbon emissions and the possibility for businesses to reduce their outgoings by minimizing the need for dedicated office space.

From his findings, Bloom recommends working from home a few days a week rather than constant solitary work away from the office. This can only be a positive as lockdown measures are lifted, and businesses start to make gradual transitions back to the world of work. Perhaps a more blended, flexible style of work is here to stay.

Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

See related categories:

Click here to Log in or register to share your views on the article.