Remote working boosts productivity for office-based work
All of the indications are that remote working boosts productivity for office-based work. One recent US study of 30,000 workers indicated a massive 47% increase in productivity another smaller study with 1,000 workers carried out before the pandemic showed only a 13% increase but the common theme is that productivity is boosted by remote work. I ran a remote working pilot for a large company in 2005 and even though the technology was a lot poorer, it showed a clear increase in productivity. So let’s look at the most common definition of productivity:
i.e. productivity measures the ratio between what you have to put in to get whatever it is you’re trying to produce. Remote work offers enhancement to the top line – people get more done at home and a reduction in the bottom line – fewer offices mean lower rental, heating, lighting, cleaning, maintenance and insurance costs as well as savings on Business Continuity costs that come as a result of remote work. So for office based work, you have the nirvana of more work for less cost. In nearly every case you’re going to find that remote working boosts productivity.
You can multiply the gains by casting off dinosaur office-based culture
However this isn’t as necessarily quite as simple as it might seem. The main issue is that although people appear to be working more hours they may not be working as productively as they were in the office. What predominantly saw during the COVID 19 pandemic was not remote working but crisis induced home working with most work carried out using the same approach, processes and mostly identical technology as office-based work. If companies really want to exploit the huge potential productivity gains offered by remote work then they need to work a lot smarter and both re-organise
Make use of remote work tools to improve productivity
Venture capital is piling into remote work tools and lots of innovative applications are being launched. Businesses need to take a serious look at what is available to make sure they get best value from remote work and increase staff satisfaction and creativity. These include
- Video conferencing – read our review of the best packages
- Meetings – Remeet can transform the way meetings work
- Knowledge base – a key requirement for making remote work – read our review of knowledge base products
- Employee engagement tools – good management and happy employees are more productive – read our review of the best tools
- Employee monitoring tools – depending on the sort of business you run, these might make sense for you
- Redesign your processes to make remote working more efficient – consider training staff in Lean Six Sigma
Ditch the office based meeting culture!
An example of the sort of reorganisation companies need to consider is around meetings. One of the big features of any office-based work is meeting overload. Life can at times appear to be a succession of meetings with barely enough time to fit any real work in. A poorly planned and thought out approach to remote work results too often in not just the continuation of this outdated culture but its amplification by doing away with all of that pesky time wasted walking between meeting rooms! This is the surest way to cripple the productivity of remote teams and stress out employees who have to handle meeting after meeting.
The companies who have been remote working for years have moved beyond this and concentrate far more on asynchronous communication with a greater use of messaging threads, knowledge-bases and collaboration apps to work out a solution, with meetings held to finally agree and confirm the solution or sometimes cancelled as superfluous. Diaries are less full and meetings shorter which is better for an employee’s state of mind and their productivity. This is the approach used by companies like GitLab who have around 1,200 employees and not a single office. Their IT, Customer Service, Sales, PR, Marketing, HR and Accounts staff all work remotely. They’re a successful, growing company with happy and productive employees and not a single dollar of office cost. They’re just one of an expanding band of companies that are making remote the future of work.
Alternatively, take a look at Remeet – they have taken meetings back to first principles. Found out what people need from meetings and designed their app around it. It revolutionises and refocuses meetings, frees up people’s diaries and most importantly works!
Governments need to play their part
While there are hopeful signs that governments are realising that office based work will never be the same again, here in the UK a recent report suggested that government are concerned that remote work will reduce the UK’s productivity. This of course goes against all of the evidence which indicates the reverse is the case. Ironically successive UK governments have grappled with the problem of the UK’s historic low productivity to no avail and now that the solution is right in front of their eyes, they seem intent on rejecting it! Governments worldwide may well resist the onward march of remote work because they fear its effects on the service industries that cluster around big cities – everything from rail and underground networks to hairdressers, restaurants and coffee shops.
More progressive companies and governments will gain a competitive edge
However the tide has turned with a host of employers worldwide like Deloitte, Nokia, Google, Adobe, Microsoft and Dropbox to declaring that remote work is here to stay. More progressive governments are supporting rather than resisting the trend with for example, the Japanese government are paying employees $9,000 to move out of the crowded Tokyo conurbation and work remotely in the countryside and the German government about to publish a draft law making working from home a legal right. These governments’ appreciation that remote working boosts productivity is likely to position them far better in the post-COVID world than the dinosaurs who cling to the notion of dragging staff back into the drudge of commuting into crowded city centres and outdated office cultures.