Do remote employees actually work longer hours? Does that equate to higher productivity?

1.4k views9 Comments

CIO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
The argument that we're hearing—which is a self-reported argument—is that people feel they are more productive at home. I agree that people are working more but I don't know if anybody has reached the point that they're translating that into being productive. If that’s so, how are any of us actually measuring that? And as managers, what's our culture?

Mine is an in-office culture by definition. IT was one of the only places that had anybody working remotely prior to the pandemic. I had one area dean say, “I'm going to drive a print out to somebody's house during the pandemic.” I said, “No, don't do that. You can't do that to me, that doesn't work.” At the end of the day, are we measuring people by whether they’re in their seat or are we ultimately measuring people according to the job they have to do?
2 1 Reply
Senior Executive Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees

That's what I call the factory contact center culture: you have to be in your seat between specific hours and you always have a supervisor breathing down your neck. Those are the kinds of organizations that need to evolve away from a Taylorist outlook. It's nice to see some of them actually moving more towards deliverables and business outcomes, rather than how many hours you clocked.

Senior Executive Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees
At the end of 2020, I conducted a survey of 230+ people in different industries and at different levels in their organizations. I asked them about factors like meeting overload, working overtime, etc., to see if working from home is reducing their stress and anxiety and if it's making them productive. One of the results was that over 62% of the people that answered that survey said that they were working at least 1.5 hours more per week.

A lot of them said that they were working at least 2-3 hours more per day just because of meeting overload and all the other things that are happening. They’d have to go back and do their actual day’s work and to meet their objective and key results and all their MBOs. They said their performance was being measured just to prove their productivity and that was extremely taxing.
1 1 Reply
SVP in Finance (non-banking), 1,001 - 5,000 employees

On one side you hear that they want flexibility and to work from home. On the flip side, there's an argument that people have been overworked, they're exhausted and they need a change because it’s not sustainable. I find this argument very circular in nature and I think it's a different scenario that we're dealing with now.

Director Business Technology in Software, 10,001+ employees
It’s important to understand if it’s the employees' perception that they're working longer and less productively, or if they’re feeling that way because culturally, the organization was micromanaged even in-office, for example. I've worked in a situation in-office where I would hear comments like, “So and so left early.” That perpetuated a culture in which if people worked from home, they felt like they needed to work an extra hour to justify working remotely.

I've worked in other situations, including my current one, where nobody cares what hours you work. We're global and most of my staff is on the east coast. The expectation is just to get the projects done. And it's also a culture where people shut off their notifications when they're done. So, I've yet to hear a single complaint like, “Since I've been remote, I feel like I have to work longer to justify that.” I heard that early on in the pandemic. I think that people generally felt that. But I would wonder what people would say today if they worked in an organization where the right expectations were set and it was clear from the top down that this is normal and these are the hours.
3 1 Reply
Senior Executive Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees

We went back and dug into the data to understand where this was coming from. One of my hypotheses that was validated by the data was that the respondents who said they were working more just to feel productive were from the companies that used the scientific management style or the Taylorist approach that is pathological or bureaucratic organizations. They said they were constantly on either calls, messenger or email.

There was a funny story that someone shared in a follow up interview: They had written an application that would randomly send emails at night, just so that their boss would see them and think they were working crazy hours. It’s a super talented and creative response, but it saddens me to think that there are still organizations to this day that are looking at the number of hours people work.

VP of IT in Media, 10,001+ employees
Yes and it hastens delivery
CTO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Yes, and more efficient than being at work with all the distractions.
Director of IT in Software, 501 - 1,000 employees
Longer hours, yes. But higher productivity isn’t guaranteed

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