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Working from home or the office: Which is more productive?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world in 2020 and forced organisations to restructure working methods, there was no questioning the traditional norm of working from the office.

However, the world discovered the benefits of working remotely and now it seems there’s no looking back, as far as employees are concerned.

But which one is more productive? Do the perks of working from the office give you an edge over working remotely or is the latter more well-suited for the new order of the world?

Surprisingly, many studies conducted over the past couple of years show productivity while working from home (WFH) was better than working in an office set-up.


Homeworkers report a greater level of satisfaction

A 2015 study by Stanford of 16,000 workers over nine months found working from home increased productivity by 13 per cent. (Remember, 2015 was at least four years before COVID-19 existed.)

The report took into account the results of a WFH experiment at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency in which call centre employees who volunteered to work from home were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for nine months.

Homeworking led to a 13 per cent performance increase, of which 9 per cent was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4 per cent from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment).

In the same study, workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and attrition rates were reduced by 50 per cent.

Studies conducted after the outbreak of the pandemic – when remote working was adopted – vindicated the results of this study.

A September, 2021 report by Owl Labs, in collaboration with leading remote-work-consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, surveyed 2,050 full-time workers in the US to learn more about the current state of remote and hybrid work and what lay ahead.

This report also showed productivity didn’t suffer, with 90 per cent of respondents that worked from home during the pandemic saying they were as productive, or more, working remotely when compared to in the office.

Of the respondents, 84 per cent also said working remotely after the pandemic would make them happier, with many even willing to take a pay cut.

In another two-year study by Great Place to Work of more than 800,000 employees at Fortune 500 companies, it was found most people reported stable, or even increased, productivity levels after employees started working from home.

With daily commutes and lengthy, in-person meetings eliminated, employees found they were able to get more done.

However, company culture and leadership, the same factors that influence in-person productivity, continue to have the biggest impact on remote work productivity as well.

According to talent-solutions company Apollo Technical, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47 per cent more productive on average.

If recent studies are anything to go by, productivity seems to be higher in the remote working structure than working in an office setup.

However, organisations might beg to differ and there’s a certain percentage of workers who do not entirely endorse the remote-working arrangement for their own productivity.


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