Remote work: Will it really kill productivity?

While it's led to a change in habits, one psychologist believes it'll do more good than harm in the long run

Remote work: Will it really kill productivity?

While some employees have adapted seamlessly to working from home, many are discovering new hurdles to productivity.

For about seven in 10 employees, this is the first time they’re working from home full-time for an extended period.

A recent study found that about one in three employees believe they don’t have the necessary resources to work remotely adequately.

About half have also commented that they’re receiving more work correspondence, via email, chat, or text, outside of the typical business hours than before.

Despite all that, employees are putting in effort to adapt to the change – O.C. Tanner found that about four in five employees are setting a daily schedule or routine for themselves while observing various lockdown or social distancing measures.

Employees also shared how their habits have since changed:

  • 48% are snacking more
  • 38% are doing more laundry
  • 52% are sleeping in more
  • 52% are going to bed later
  • 60% are watching more TV
  • 32% are exercising less
  • 16% are showering less
  • 26% are shaving less

READ MORE: Are remote workers developing unhealthy habits?

The impact on productivity
With the ongoing pandemic, no end seems currently in sight for the new way of working. This means employers are especially challenged to help employees navigate the jarring effects of the unprecedented crisis.

But will productivity really hit a slump with extended remote work?

Workplace psychologist George Mylonas disagreed.

“The most significant benefit for employers is that remote work improves productivity because there are fewer distractions and employees are better able to concentrate,” said Mylonas.

Moreover, employees have enhanced autonomy and control over their work environment, including how they dress, lighting, temperature and background noise, which enhances job satisfaction.

Remote work can also improve personal well-being as it provides employees more time to balance work and family responsibilities.

“What’s more, since remote workers are not subjected to direct face-to-face supervision, they experience increased feelings of freedom,” he said.

READ MORE: Covid-19: Tips for successful remote working

The key to successful remote work
Before the current global shift to remote work, many employers were sceptical of the arrangement due to pervasive concerns about decreased productivity. But Mylonas insisted that evidence proves otherwise.

“Employers worry they will lose control over remote workers and be unable to supervise them, provide constructive feedback and deliver performance appraisals,” he said.

However, the key to successfully managing the major organisational shift is to focus from ‘face time’ to results and developing a supportive remote work culture.

“Concentrate on managing objectives and set specific performance targets, timeframes and communication guidelines so remote workers know what’s expected,” he said.

“Employers should assist managers to change their perception of remote work by outlining the benefits and providing information on how it is a strategic business tool, standard operating procedure and legitimate way to conduct work rather than an employee perk or exception.

“There shouldn't be any difference between managing remote workers and non-remote workers.”

As former Coca Cola executive, Lilia Stoyanov once told HRD, the success of remote work truly depends on leadership.

“Often, those who oppose remote work point to a lack of communication and motivation as major disadvantages,” said Stoyanov, CEO at Transformify. “However, these are excuses I refuse to buy.

“We have all seen open space offices where all employees wear headsets and don’t exchange a word with those sitting next to them.

“Efficiency and proper communication are the positive results of good management, not physical location.”

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