How does remote working affect productivity? 


  • Future of work

03 June 2021


For many traditionally office-based workers who were forced to work from home when lockdown commenced in March 2020, the pandemic has demonstrated the benefits of remote working and, as a result, many employers are moving towards hybrid models that combine working from both home and the office.  

However, old ideas around presenteeism and the office being the hub for productivity abide and some have voiced concerns that remote working means less productivity from their workforce.  

Our research shows that at least half of people believe they are working more or equally as productively at home. In fact, across all age groups, an average of 49% believe they are more productive working from home. This rises to 57% for 18 to 34-year-olds. But don’t just listen to us. We’ve looked at other research in this area.  

What does the research say about productivity and remote working? 

A recent study by Great Place to Work® of office employees [worldwide] discovered that most employees were far more productive once they started working from home. As in IWFM’s time-series research, they found that factors such as not having to travel to work, minimal workplace distractions and more flexibility around working hours enhanced performance. 

A study by Nicholas Bloom for The Quarterly Journal of Economics somewhat forecast this trend. In his experiment, Bloom worked with a Chinese company to study remote-work productivity. Somewhat to his surprise, the company’s staff became notably more productive by working from home four days a week than in the office. After tracking two working teams with the same tasks over nine months, Bloom discovered workers were 13% more productive at home than in the office. Of that 13%’s increased output, around 4% of it came from workers being able to fit in more tasks per minute due to fewer distractions.  

What next? 

With international research and our own national polling suggesting most employees are equally or more productive working remotely, we believe hybrid working is a viable and perhaps optimal solution in many cases. As part of a workplace strategy, workplace and facilities managers need to consider the contribution that hybrid working models could make to their organisation, particularly as our research shows that avoiding more flexible ways of working could harm employee retention. Such avoidance presents a real risk to organisations as they seek to attract and keep talent who want the benefits of working both at home and in the office – especially younger workers. 

Not sure how to make the change? Use our resources.  

IWFM and Ricoh have collaborated to bring together sharp insights and practical guidance to help you and your organisation understand and navigate the space, process, technology, and cultural matters which combine to create people centred workplaces capable of driving better outcomes. You can access various resources and learn more here.