Does working from home increase productivity?

5 Min Read
Working from home

Working from home

When it comes to the topic of remote work, we find there are generally two types of people: those that love it, and those that don’t believe in it. While there are arguments in favour and against both standpoints, the main source of disagreement seems to be around productivity. Are employees more productive working from home or when based in a more traditional office environment? 

Studies that have compared levels of productivity working from home vs. at the office have led to a number of interesting statistics around remote work productivity.

The statistics around work from home productivity

If you review the research, a great deal seems to be pointing towards a productivity increase at the home office. 

According to a Stanford University study, a WFH (working from home) experiment conducted with 16,000 call-centre employees at a Chinese company led to a 13% performance increase. In this case, productivity was measured in terms of the number of phone calls employees made per minute in comparison to their office-based colleagues. The increase is the equivalent of almost one extra day’s work per week.

In a similar experiment, American electronics retailer BestBuy introduced a 100% flexible work program that let employees work from anywhere, at any time. The result? A 35% jump in employee productivity. Another study from 2020 found that two-thirds of managers that offer a remote working option report that employees working from home are overall more productive. 

But what do remote workers think? A 2016 survey of 509 full-time remote employees in the US showed that 91% believe they get more work done when working remotely. Another self-reported survey reported that 77% of remote workers felt they get more done in the same time as a result of fewer distractions. 

This ties in nicely with our next point, namely that 61% of employees claim that loud colleagues are their biggest distraction, according to an study. It comes as no surprise then that 86% of employees say they’re most productive when working alone, in an environment free of office of potentially noisy coworkers. 

Lastly, 52% of remote employees said they are less likely to take time off work, even when sick, further hinting at an increase in productive hours. Albeit all parties need to be mindful of managing this responsibly for their overall wellbeing and longer-term productivity.

86% of employees say they’re most productive when working alone”

Other pros and cons for companies and employees

There’s a lot more to WFH schemes than just a change in productivity levels. We did some research, and from saving money to lower staff turnover and increased rates of loneliness, remote workers can affect your business and staff in a number of ways. 

We’ve gone ahead and listed out the main pros and cons for both. 

The pros 

For companies For employees

Lower costs

This one’s a no brainer but just think of all the costs your business could save if everyone worked remotely. Costs like rent, service charges, utility bills and office furniture would be a thing of the past.

Lower costs

Just as with businesses, employees working remotely have lower costs for things like travel and food. Research found that during the Coronavirus period, Londoners are saving £58 on average per week by working from home.

Higher staff retention

Remember the Stanford study and the Chinese call-centre experiment? They found that WFH arrangements led to fewer people quitting as the attrition rates dropped by 50%. For employers, this is often one of the biggest benefits of working from home.

Increased quality of life

Employees that are able to work from home have reported that they are getting more sleep (45%), more physical exercise (35%) and are eating healthier (42%). Overall, 53% have reported less stress and 51% said they are able to spend more time with their significant others.

Hiring benefit

The ability to work from home makes you more attractive when hiring. For example, 68% of millennials say that a WFH option greatly increases their interest in working for a company. WFH schemes can attract more applicants, particularly important when located in a remote area.

Increased satisfaction levels

Job satisfaction (both in terms of what you’re doing and how happy you are about your work situation overall) subconsciously affects work output in a positive way, taking us back to the productivity debate.* As a result, 44% of WFH employees have reported a more positive attitude.

Environmental benefit

When working from home, your employees are producing fewer greenhouse gases as they aren’t commuting to the office. By simply staying put, your business could be making a much more positive impact on the environment than previously thought.

Less commuting time

In the UK, the average daily commute time is 59 minutes. As a result, people working from home will save almost five hours per week that they’d normally spend sitting in a train, car or bus. This, again, cycles back to the productivity argument as some extra time may be spent working.

The cons 

For companies For employees

Lack of company culture
With people working remotely for a prolonged period, there is a justified concern that the company culture will not withstand the test of time.

With less face-to-face interaction with colleagues and clients, 19% of individuals working from home for an extended period of time have said they struggle with loneliness.

Issues with reliability

Less employer-employee contact means there is a chance of less reliability amongst workers, particularly on those days that their line manager is off sick or on annual leave.

Struggling to ‘switch off’

When the lines between ‘home’ and ‘office’ start to blur, 22% of remote workers have said that ‘switching off’ after work is their biggest struggle.

Issues with accountability

When things go wrong, a completely remote team can experience accountability issues as blame gets passed around. This can result in less camaraderie amongst employees that don’t see each other often.

Home office setup

The setup at home seems to be a particular struggle as 62% of remote employees have said they want employers to provide better technology, especially in order for them to stay connected to coworkers.

And there you have it: the most important pros and cons of working from home for both employers and employees. 

While we’ve spoken quite a bit about increased productivity and other benefits, there’s no denying that a remote working arrangement should be carefully considered and planned for before enacting. 

Download our full guide on maximising productivity when working from home here.