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Work from Home Decreases Productivity

Working from home, which is becoming the new standard, leads to an overall decrease in productivity among employees. Modern hybrid systems play into this economically from both the perspective of employers and employees.


Work from home — more commonly known as WFH — has become standard in these post-COVID times. Employers and employees alike look forward to and depend on it for ease and reliability. This shift in attitudes, caused by the pandemic’s forceful quarantine, led employees to develop habits of taking calls from their kitchen tables and joining meetings from their beds. Data collected immediately following this transition showed an increase in productivity.


For example, results published in February 2021 collected from 3 million employees stated that WFH increased employee productivity by 6%. Published alongside these statistics are statements of how people are comfortable with WFH as they stray away from the restrictive 9-5 schedule. Moreover, employees often reap the benefits of no commute, allowing them to not only save money on transportation but also sleep in just a little bit longer every morning. While statistics like this are commonly highlighted, they merely scratch the surface.

 

After observing more practices associated with WFH, it has come to companies' attention that average output has declined. Comparing the total number of hours worked to the output, researchers conclude that productivity has declined by 20%. What the initial studies missed was how people frequently worked considerably longer hours from home — up to 30% more on an average day. Mistakenly preconceived notions associated this with increased productivity, but in reality, things were completed at a less effective rate. Employees were not as impactful with their work as phone calls repeated and meetings lasted longer increasing employees’ stress. 


Working from home impacted various families differently. For instance, families with children were seen to especially decrease in productivity. Parents found a less conducive working environment at home, especially during COVID-19 when their children were also expected to learn from home. Moreover, the impact of WFH on males versus females stood out as women seemed to struggle more. They appeared to be less productive and felt more stress than males, regardless of whether or not children were part of their family dynamics. They often succumbed to other household chores, which is believed to be an effect of how domestic responsibilities usually fall on them. This accentuated the already existent gender divide as women felt more emotionally exhausted juggling everything. 


Individual effects of WFH also stood out throughout some studies: the ability to focus for longer periods decreased so workers were less productive on individual tasks. Meanwhile, spending all this time working individually decreased employees' team effectiveness. For the first time, collaboration seemed to limit productivity. 

Often analyzed alongside WFH is the hybrid model. As society began moving past the pandemic, some companies opened up workspaces again, developing a system where certain groups of people come to work on certain days. Now, in times where, realistically, employers could maintain workplaces at full capacity in person, many companies chose to continue their hybrid system; they found that a balance of WFH and in-person is what the majority of workers preferred. 


From an economic standpoint, WFH proves to be challenging. Companies recognize workers’ preference for hybrid schedules, but they are wary of the costs. Most companies have identified the benefits of cutting out the costs of maintaining an office through COVID and aren’t interested in returning to the way it was before. 

As an overarching view of society, WFH tends to increase inequality. According to research completed at Stanford, remote working benefits people in high-earning positions.


With most of their work online, the only resources remote workers need are their phones or laptops. They continue to show competence and are likely to progress careers more than their lower-income counterparts. Those who work in the food, transportation, and retail industries are especially impacted by these changes. They face the grave consequences caused by the loss of paying for a train ticket or buying a cup of coffee. New York City, in particular, used to profit up to $17 billion off of public transportation, but now that number is down to $4 billion. These sudden immense crashes contribute to slowing down the economy and its recovery. 


As time goes on, researchers find new trends impacting people’s perception of WFH. While initial studies emphasized increased productivity, clearly when sifting through various details and perspectives, the drawbacks become prominent, explicitly negative impact on the economy and declining worker output. These consequences influence consumption and force adaption from everyone, permanently transforming the norms of America’s labor force.


(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.)


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