This blog is contributed by the Burtch Works recruiting team.
With the U.S. vaccine rollout under way, and as companies are now slowly making the transition to reopening offices, everyone is wondering what the “future of work” will look like. While it’s hard to make precise predictions about the future (especially given the events of the past year), it’s probably safe to say that at least some form of “WFH” is here to stay. Our survey earlier this year focused on WFH preferences, so for this round, we delved into productivity.
Recently, we asked the Burtch Works network, including data scientists, analytics professionals, marketing researchers and data engineers, to share their input on productivity levels for themselves and their teammates, as many professionals are still continuing to work from home.
Individual Productivity WFH vs. in the Office
Focusing on productivity, we asked: For you personally, do you think that WFH is more productive than working in the office?
Out of a total of 341 respondents, we found that 71% of the sample believe that working from home is more productive than working in the office, while only 8% believe that working from home is less productive for them.
We also examined the sample by gender (117 women and 224 men) and found that although both groups overwhelmingly felt they are more productive working from home (70% and 70.5%), women were more likely to say that WFH is less productive (12%) than working in the office compared to men in the sample (8%).
Team Productivity WFH vs. in the Office
Our second question delved further into team productivity while working from home to investigate if there were any differences in sentiment around team productivity versus individual productivity.
Here we found that the largest segment of respondents, 50%, believe that their team is more productive while working from home. 15% of the sample believe that working from home is less productive and 35% believe their team maintains the same productivity level. Overall, most professionals are more likely to feel WFH is more productive for themselves than for their teams.
There are most likely a variety of reasons for the difference in results for personal vs. team productivity. Working in the office can perhaps facilitate more conversation and team building, which can sometimes be more difficult when the team is working remotely. Communication and collaboration difficulties when working from home can be detrimental to team productivity and success, and team productivity may also relate to the team’s function and how self-sufficient or collaborative the members’ tasks are.
Onboarding/remote training can also be more of a challenge when working remotely, and WFH doesn’t allow for as many personal connections with colleagues or mentorship opportunities, especially ad hoc coaching, which being in the office typically encourages. While many professionals have adjusted to socializing with others on Zoom happy hours and other virtual gatherings, they may still find in-person collaboration and communication valuable even if they consider WFH to be more or as productive as the office.
What about the Future of WFH?
While it is important to note that “productivity” is subjective and most individuals gauge this differently, our research found that most respondents feel that working from home is more productive for them. As employers are evaluating their remote working policies in a post-COVID work world, knowing how employees feel about their own and their team’s ability to WFH effectively is very useful to know.
There are also many factors in play regarding WFH productivity. The lack of commuting and elimination of the boundary between work and home life could translate to more flexible scheduling or longer work hours. The gender disparity between men and women who have children may also come into play, since in many instances women may have a heavier involvement with children than their male counterparts. Childcare has been a struggle with many families due to COVID complications (quarantines, part time school hours, remote learning, etc.), but will this situation be somewhat alleviated with vaccinations on the rise?
While WFH may be considered by many professionals to be more or as productive as office work, some companies may feel that this comes at the expense of a loss of a cohesive corporate culture, and that it tempers the spontaneous collaborative opportunities that come as a result of casual “water cooler” conversations. Other companies may view flexibility as the key to talent recruitment and retention. So far, there have been notable company policy announcements on both sides of the remote vs. office decision, with some opting for a fully remote policy and others insisting on a return to office life as soon as it is safe to do so. With many factors to consider and a variety of options on the table, it is ultimately up to the company to decide which approach best suits their values.
Even for the individual who believes that working from home is a productive solution for themselves and their teams, it is still an approach that requires consistent adjustment in order to be most effective. As offices continue to reopen, it will be interesting to see what approach organizations choose to maintain productivity, and if/how they will adjust resources to accommodate any shifts.