What comes to your mind when you read “Jen is working remotely today” or “Rob is at home office”? I bet that for many of you the first thing that you visualize is a slob in an old pyjamas, lying on a couch with a laptop, randomly moving the computer mouse in order to stay “green” on the company IM, while actually watching TV or playing with their kid. For those of you have such an image: can you believe that according to research (1) 91% of people who have experienced telework say they are way more more productive while working at home than in the office? How could this be? To understand this I decided to collect all the reasons that make the “home-office” a “very-productive-office”:
NO UNWELCOME INTERRUPTIONS
Probably the most obvious and also the most important argument speaking in favor of remote work over office-based work. Not surprisingly people just hate being interrupted when they are focused on something. No matter if it is just a loud colleague in an open space (61% of respondents in a US national study see this as the biggest distraction at work) (2), impromptu meetings (40%) or just being asked adhoc questions by colleagues while you are just in the middle of something. It is worth mentioning that these claims are not just pure whining of overly sensitive employees- science proves that an average person needs about 25 minutes to get back into the swing of things after they were interrupted (3). When an employee is give a chance to work remotely they can free themselves from what they see as most unwelcome interruptions. Which leads us to point 2.
CHOOSING YOUR BEST WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Have you ever hid yourself in a free conference room in your office just to get something important quickly done, or come to the office before everyone else does to be able to focus well? If not then you probably saw other people do that. This shows that “work-friendly environment” means something different to all of us, and not necessary the office. For some it will be a busy cafe with a steady, lively background noise, for others a quiet library or a desk at home. Most of people are able to instinctively state in which conditions they will be most productive and least distracted. It makes sense to give employees a chance to work at a place which helps them to perform at their best instead of making them struggle in an environment which is not their natural focus booster.
UTILIZING YOUR PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY CYCLES
We differ from each other also when it comes to the times of our top-productivity. Early birds enjoy the energy their bodies and minds explode with in the early morning, while night owls flourish and get their best ideas in the late evening. The highly productive personal cycles do not always correspond well with the commonly established working hours such as 9 to 5. One way to solve this problem is to allow people to come to work as early as they want or to stay as long as they want. But wouldn’t it be of advantage to enable them to work whenever and wherever they want, so that in the time that they don’t see as best for work they can run errands, spend time with family or do whatever they need to?
REMOTE? LESS STRESS!
It seems logical that high stress does not boost productivity: feeling under pressure often redirects one’s attention and energy from working on a task to overwhelming feelings or overthinking. Let’s take morning commute as an example: experiencing stress while being stuck in a traffic jam and worrying about being late does not magically disappear after reaching the destination. It sticks with an individual for a while and does not support productivity. We can name a couple of other areas might cause stress to employees: childcare obligations, taking proper care of health, errands or even already mentioned willingness to deliver great results, confronted with many distractions at the workplace. Telework can be very helpful in helping employees to remain calm and emotionally balanced so that they can be focused and productive during their working time.
Employee productivity is without a doubt valuable from the perspective of any company as it leads to better business results. But let’s not forget being productive is also important to any individual: getting things done effectively makes people feel good, proud and useful. Considering this we should do our best to empower people to perform at their highest productivity. Enabling remote work is one of ways to achieve that, although we should bear in mind that it is not the one and ultimate solution. It makes sense to trust employees and their judgement whether they prefer office environment or telework, while making sure we also have the right measures to track productivity in general to test what works best.