Remote Workers More Productive in Short-Term Than Long-Term, Study Shows

Courtesy Getty Images

Courtesy Getty Images

Researchers surveyed 60,000 Microsoft employees and found that remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts in the short-term, but less productive long term.

The work-from-home movement has been growing in recent years, with more and more companies offering remote work options to employees and more employees seeking out these opportunities.

This has resulted in much debate among workers and employers about the pros and cons of working remotely. However, as of late, this skepticism towards remote work seems to be dissipating, as studies increasingly show that employees who work from home could be actually more productive than their office-bound counterparts.

But, of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

Remote Workers More Productive in Short-Term Than Long-Term

The study, published in Nature, compiled data from over 60,000 Microsoft employees and found that employees who worked from home were able to yield higher productivity for short-term projects. However, they did not perform as well on long-term projects.

This means that while working from home could make you more productive in the short term, it might not be the best option for projects that require sustained focus and concentration. But why is this the case?

One cause of the long-term project productivity dip could be the lack of team collaboration and interaction when working remotely. An employee working in an office has already established relationships with co-workers and can easily ask for help or feedback on a project, whereas a remote worker might not have that same support network. As a result, they might not get the same level of feedback and direction, leading to a decrease in productivity.

Another reason employees might become less productive for long-term projects when working remotely is due to distractions. At home, there are more potential distractions than in an office, from family members and pets to housework and errands. It can be harder to stay focused on work when there are so many other things vying for your attention.

So, what can employers do to make sure that their remote workers are just as productive as their office-based employees?

Encourage Regular Check-Ins and Video Calls

Not everyone is able to make a seamless transition from the office to working remotely. It can be isolating and some people just do not work well when they’re by themselves. If you have employees working remotely, schedule regular check-ins (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly - whatever works for you) via video call or in-person to see how they’re doing and if they need any help.

These check-ins will not only make sure that your employees are on track with their work, but will also give them an opportunity to voice any concerns they might have about working remotely.

Set Employees Up for Success

If you’re going to have employees working remotely, they need to have the right tools to do their job. This might include a laptop, smartphone, printer and software that allows them to video call and screen share.

Additionally, you’ll want to give them access to any work-related documents or files they might need to do their job. This could be stored in the cloud (like Google Drive or Dropbox) or on your company’s server.

Encourage Breaks and Socialization

Just because your employees are working from home doesn’t mean they should be working all the time. In fact, one of the benefits of remote work is that employees can take breaks whenever they want and socialize when they need to.

So, make sure you encourage your employees to take breaks throughout the day and connect with their co-workers (virtually, of course). Maybe you could even have a virtual happy hour once a week!

Make Use of Communication Tools

There are a ton of great communication tools out there that can help remote teams stay connected and coordinated. Slack, Google Hangouts, Zoom and Skype are just a few of the many options available.

Find the one that works best for your team and make sure that everyone is using it regularly. These tools will help with things like scheduling video calls, sharing files, and tracking projects.

Encourage Workspace Flexibility

Family members of remote workers may have a hard time respecting boundaries, especially if they’re used to seeing them at the kitchen table or in the home office in their pajamas as opposed to the traditional office setting.

It’s important to encourage your employees to create a workspace that works for them and helps them be productive. This might mean working from a coffee shop a few days a week or setting up a dedicated space in their home with firm boundaries so that family members or roommates know that when they’re in that space, they’re working.

Making the decision to move to a remote working force can be a tough one, but if you take the time to set your employees up for success, you can give them a better chance of being just as productive as they would be in an office. Just make sure to encourage regular check-ins, set them up with the right tools and encourage breaks and time off. With a little bit of effort, you can make sure that your remote team is just as, if not more, productive as your office-based employees.