Work from home or at the office: Which is more productive?


Fact Box

  • The terms ‘telecommuting’ and ‘telework’ were coined by physicist Jack Nilles in the early 1970s when he researched worker productivity increases related to eliminating office commutes. 
  • According to the Pew Research Center, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 20% of Americans who could perform their jobs remotely worked from home, compared to December 2020, when 71% did.  
  • The Economic Policy Institute states that less than 30% of workers can feasibly work from home. 
  • A 2021 Statista survey of remote workers revealed that respondents’ biggest struggle was “not being able to unplug” from work at home. 

Trinity (At the Office)

Working from the office provides a more productive environment than working from home for several common sense reasons. For employees to perform their job functions well, companies invest in offices with proper resources in place--such as access to reliable internet, printers, desks, etc. Employees working from home may not have the right supplies or equipment that an office environment can provide. And this may lead to decreased productivity if employees need to go out of their way to get what they need to work or deal with unreliable residential internet. 

Productivity is essential for profitability, and it's easier to achieve at the office where there are fewer distractions since the environment is controlled and consistent. In a survey conducted with over 2,000 remote employees, 72.4% reported using their phones for unrelated work issues while working away from the office. Additionally, 33.4% of employees reported being interrupted by children, while 18.1% were distracted by pets. These distractions would obviously not exist or be significantly reduced in an office environment due to limited access.

Communication is vital for successful teams. Because of inconsistent interactions with other team members, people who work from home may begin to feel isolated--something that leads to a 21% decrease in productivity, according to a recent Gallup study. Remote employees may also have communication breakdowns with their colleagues, as research finds that 55% of communication is non-verbal. Zoom calls and teleconferences simply cannot convey all that an in-person interaction can. 

With fewer distractions, a more appropriate work environment, and the chance to gain valuable face-to-face interactions with colleagues, the office is more conducive to productivity. 

Anna (From Home)

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the ways Americans work and expanded the ways they can do work. Many companies shifted to entirely remote offices; something that had never been done before. A new question emerged for many: is it more productive to work from home or at the office? 

Multiple studies argue in favor of people working from home, including one by Stanford, which revealed that those working from home increased productivity by 13% over nine months. 

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, people who work from home reportedly work longer hours and spend more time in virtual meetings. In fact, people who work from home spend ten minutes less a day being unproductive, work an extra day a week, and are 47% more productive overall.

While there are certainly some people who may be less productive when working from home, a study by the Chicago Booth Review found that only 14% of workers were less productive, while six out of ten workers actually reported higher productivity rates. 

Remarkably, just a single day working from home per week can boost productivity by 4.8%, a study of more than 30,000 US employees claimed. This could be because individuals who work from home report being less distracted by coworkers and spend 30 minutes less discussing non-work-related topics. Working from home also allows workers to take control of their schedules and requires them to prioritize their work. With the insurmountable evidence that working from home increases productivity, companies should consider permanently adopting a remote program for their workers.

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