Are Remote Workers More Productive Than Traditional Office Workers?

Upwork’s 2018 Future Workforce Report found that remote work is becoming more common. According to the survey, 63% of companies have remote workers and that 5X that number of hiring managers expect more of their team to work remotely in the next 10 years.

New technologies such as video conference, cloud collaboration software, and chat tools--like Slack--have enhanced today’s work-from-home capabilities. Not only has this empowered workers, but it has also helped managers better measure the impact and results of those workers who work from home.

Yet, the debate of whether or not remote workers are more productive than traditional office workers remains. Reports on the topic vary, with some claiming that home workers are more productive, while others stating that office workers deliver the best results.

A Forbes article that looked at several research studies on the topic concluded that, “working from home can make a worker more productive, but that isn’t a guarantee. However, it’s safe to say that, according to studies, as long as the job is one that can be performed from home, most people are more productive when working from home, but that productivity is strongly subject to the policies put in place by the employer.”

Another factor that needs to be taken into account is personality; some people are more self-disciplined than others and are more capable of establishing routines that reduce home distractions. Others are more prone to miss the social element of work; being around others, surrounded by a constant buzz that motivates them to get work done. Then we  also need to consider that not all remote workers choose to work from home, with some opting to work from a coffee shop or a coworking space.

And then there’s also the fact that not all jobs can be done from home or from somewhere across the world. Certain jobs require for people and teams to meet face to face, to operate machinery, to deal with day to day activities that cannot be overseen from home.

In short, there is no clear-cut answer to whether or not remote workers are more productive than office workers. Moreover, the debate on remote work, however, shouldn’t only focus on productivity. Remote work policies give companies access to global talent and it can help reduce overhead costs, especially those associated with real estate.

So while productivity might be one way to measure the impact of remote work, companies and professionals should also have a more holistic view of the issue, taking into account the type of work, the personality of a person, the health benefits, and the organizational benefits.


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