The Curious Case of Productivity of Remote Employees

Find out that Work from home option is more productive than work from office or is it just a myth? Have a look on some casestudies from corporate world

Almost 3.3 million workers in the United States work from home, at least half the time. As per the 2016 survey remote workers in the U.S.A,  almost 91% of freelancers feel that they are more productive when they work from home than from the office and out of this 30 % did more work in lesser time as well.

There is another side to the freelance jobs online option. It is also felt by some remote workers that even though they have the freedom to do many things when they work from home, after some time they start feeling lonely. The reason for this is that the social aspect of an office is missing in their remote work life. It has been seen to even affect their productivity.

How contradictory are both these situations with the remote workers! So, let’s delve a bit deeper into this topic and find out if a work from home option is actually more productive than work from office or is it just a myth? Let’s look at some case studies from the corporate world:

Remote Workers are Not More Productive than Office Workers

Recently, Yahoo had banned approximately 12,000 employees who used to work from home. This resulted in a national debate whether remote working really had its advantages. Referring to this, the CEO of Yahoo, Ms Marissa Mayer responded to the press that the remote employees can be more productive when working alone. On the other hand, she also said that they can be more innovative and work in better collaboration when working together in one place

A scientist visiting MIT, Mr Ben Waber in his book People Analytics also argued that programmers working remotely can take up to 32% more time in completing codes than the ones working from an office set up. If such was the case, Yahoo would have become at least 3% more effective due to this decision of Ms Mayer and probably saved up to $150 million as well.

Another similar case seen was with IBM that had also called back thousands of its employees who had work from home option.

In a similar incident, a European bank found that its sales team performed better when they worked together and interacted with each other rather than working remotely. As per Mr Ben Waber, it was primarily due to the fact that sales personnel learn and share their experiences better during face-to-face contact.


Remote Workers Are More Productive than Office Workers

Contrary to the above case studies, there has been a study done by Ctrip – a travel company based out of China, where they asked half of their call centre employees to take up the option to work from home. The results were phenomenal. Not only were their home based employees happier and they saved infrastructure money for them, but they were also 13.5% more productive than the ones working in a disciplined office environment. And to top it all, they also noticed a lesser attrition rate with employees owning home based jobs than with those working in an office.

Just like Ctrip, WordPress also followed suit when it asked all of its employees to start working from home.

Hence, even though there is no denying the fact that the employees are happier with work from home options, but it does not really guarantee that they are as or more productive than work from office employees. This has been proven in the case of Yahoo or IBM.

We may consider some variables which may define the level of productivity of the remote works. Here are a few of them for your understanding. 

  • Job Roles: As one garment cannot fit all, every company may or may not be comfortable with the work from home option either depending on their work space, work requirements and people in general. For e.g. if we look at the employees of the travel BPO – Ctrip, they may not really have the need to interact with one another in person or on the phone. They are only required to interact with their clients on the phone. Whereas, when we see the European Bank employees, their work requires them to share their sales experiences with each other to sell better with other’s experiences and sales strategies.
  • Creativity: When an organization wishes to hire employees with special skill sets and expertise, it may be better to hire them on a temporary basis to increase the productivity.
  • Communication: Just like in an office situation, work culture also impacts the productivity and job satisfaction of remote workers. For e.g. regular feedbacks from the supervisors, flexibility of work, relationships with colleagues and other team mates.
  • Telecommuting: Giving the telecommute option to the employees a couple of days per week can have a positive impact on their productivity as they get to balance their lives better giving them a better job satisfaction.
  • Experience & Portfolio: It was found in one of the studies that those having home based jobs are more productive than the office workers as the in-house office workers were more dependent on others to get their work done. It is important to review and test the profile of remote workers to understand their productivity levels. eWomen is also such a platform which offers work to freelancers where they have a pre-screening procedure for every registration received from the freelancers.

Finally, it is seen that it may not be possible to come to any specific conclusion whether remote workers are more productive than in-house office workers. It all depends on case to case basis. Hence, each company must take a decision on this matter depending on what is more suitable for their business system. However, what is nice to know is that employees, as well as employers, definitely have another choice of work pattern for them.

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