Remote workers are more efficient and work harder, according to studies

It’s hard to remember pre-pandemic work life, with commutes to airless offices where we were often distracted. Some companies have since returned to in-office work (which often makes people quit to find remote jobs), while others have hybrid and work from home options. The Hill reported on several studies of remote workers, including a study of over 60,000 Microsoft employees, that showed promising results. It turns out that at-home work is more efficient and that people who work from home work longer hours. People also prefer to work at home now.

Several studies suggest remote and hybrid employees actually work slightly longer hours than their office-bound colleagues, findings echoed by an avalanche of anecdotal evidence gathered from millions of teleworkers in the past three years.

One of the most celebrated studies, which tracked more than 60,000 Microsoft employees over the first half of 2020, found that remote work triggered a 10 percent boost in weekly hours.

Remote employees are working more, in part, because they are commuting less. Another landmark study, based on data from 27 countries, found that remote workers saved 72 minutes in daily commuting time. On average, employees spent about half an hour of that extra time engaged in daily work: more than two hours a week.

Not only do remote workers log longer hours, but they also seem to get work done at a faster clip. An oft-cited, pre-pandemic study of workers in a Chinese travel agency found a 13 percent boost in performance for home workers. They worked more hours per shift, and each hour was a bit more productive.

The success of America’s remote work experiment may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the early pandemic months, some remote workers felt imprisoned in their homes. In hindsight, however, that ennui was probably more about the pandemic itself than remote work, which has proven wildly popular.

Gallup polling shows a dramatic rise in the share of Americans who prefer to work at home at least part of the time, from 40 percent in 2019 to a near-unanimous 94 percent in 2022.

Some workplace experts theorize remote workers have an incentive to work harder: They don’t want to lose the privilege of working at home.

[From The Hill via Yahoo]

I didn’t excerpt this last part, but the end of the article has a quote about people allegedly working multiple full time jobs from home without informing employers. This is likely very rare and over hyped due to a few TikToks going viral. Popularizing these stories benefits employers who want to crack down on people working from home. Office work supports management, who are often less necessary under remote models, and bosses, who want to monitor and control workers. It’s nice to have the positive social aspect of working in an office, but that only goes so far in helping people be productive. Hopefully these studies will convince companies to support an at-home workforce. I don’t care too much about office buildings going empty, but I know there’s a whole industry around that. They seem like a throwback and something we should have abandoned as soon as the technology was available to work from home.

Also, just because we’re working from home doesn’t mean the days should be filled with meetings. That’s also a throwback and a time waster.

photos credit: Windows, Daniel Thomas, Chris Montgomery and Bruno Cervera on Unsplash

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50 Responses to “Remote workers are more efficient and work harder, according to studies”

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  1. Naye In VA says:

    Even if they did work multiple jobs, it’s it reflecting in their performance? If the job is getting done what is the problem? Wanting them in the office for that reason is about nothing more than control. Pay your employees enough to work just one job!
    Anyway I’m a hybrid employee and I’ve been working on advocating for my remote peeps and I inhale all articles like this, not because i need to be remote but because i believe remote productivity is a strength

    • Ctmamom says:

      The multiple job issues is more common than you’d think especially for technology roles. In fact, there is an entire scheme where the person you interview isn’t the person that starts the job. It is a pretty difficult problem to combat when everything from recruiting to onboarding is done virtually and never meeting your candidate in person.

      • Naye In VA says:

        Those are two different issues. You are referring to fraud, the type which can be combatted by taking the time to video chat with your employees and connect with them every now and again.
        Working two jobs at the same time is a matter of performance and capability. Reframing a job into productivity as opposed to hours worked will go a long way to maintaining a work life balance for a happy workforce.

      • pottymouthpup says:

        there is one other possible issue with working multiple jobs and that is the potential for conflict of interest/insider information if you’re working for companies that are in a competitive space. That said, it’s rough enough to schedule team meetings (actual necessary meetings) when you work for one company, I can’t imagine juggling that across companies if your employer is unaware you have two full time jobs with overlapping core hours

    • Sobiewski says:

      Now this is a cause I can definitely get behind and chime in on. I was a remote worker even before the pandemic. It is almost an afterthought though given my line of work. I was a business consultant and traveled 100 pct of the time. Tired of that but my line of work was highly conducive to a remote work life balance. You actually end up working more hours from home. But it is a give and take. You figure it out over time and eventually settle into a comfortable weekly grind. It is incredibly convenient. I feel bad for people who don’t have the freedom of remote work.

    • frontporchsittin says:

      EXACTLY. If it’s not impacting my ability to do either job, it’s none of your business what I’m doing. I work two jobs – one with some set hours but mostly flexible and the other entirely flexible. I do both jobs well and receive accolades in both positions. Would I be ridiculously good at just one? Sure. Would I like to work only one? Ideally, yes. Can my family afford for me to just work one? Nope. Until salaries actually match the cost of living, this is what I have to do.

      To address some of the other comments:
      – Don’t work for companies in the same space. If you have a non-compete, don’t be an idiot. Find something else for the second gig.
      – Scheduling meetings is no harder than scheduling meetings between people from different departments or having otherwise busy schedules.
      – Don’t work for companies that require a traditional work day. If you don’t have a choice, work for one that has a traditional schedule and make sure the second gig has flexible/alternative hours.
      – If you find out that your colleague works multiple jobs and it isn’t impacting their productivity, keep your mouth shut. Snitches get stitches.

  2. My husband works from home and he is still up early but instead of driving he is already in meetings. He still has no time for lunch but he is home for dinner. He works online until 10-11pm. So he is working more from home than when he was commuting.

    • Eleonor says:

      I quit my current company because they are reducing wfh.
      The new one has 2 days at the office and 3 at home.
      But I can decide.

  3. Lolamd says:

    I have been working remotely for some time now. And I work more hours remotely than I ever did working in the office.

  4. Lucky Charm says:

    I work a hybrid (3 days in office, 2 days at home), and I get much more done on my two days at home. When you think about all the distractions and time wasters in the office, I’m more productive at home.

    • Andrea says:

      I found being in the office so distracting, coworkers wanting to gossip, etc. Also, if I was tired, I found myself longing for home. Now, for 3 years I am enjoying being well rested, no commute, no distractions and I am way more productive. I am always thinking do these bosses really want to waste money on people goofing off in the office? I vowed I will work from home no matter what.

    • Kitten says:

      Exact same for me: 3 days in and 2 at home. Even when I close my office door, folks still come barging in to talk about a whole lotta nothing. Never have to deal with that shit at home.

      • I'm not eating zoodles says:

        This infuriates me to no end! Last week I had my door shut, a sign on my door that said “Zoom- do not disturb” AND I was wearing headphones (y’know pretty big hints that now is not the time) and a co-worker STILL opened the door and walked directly into my office so he could hand me something. I wanted to throttle him!

  5. theRobinsons says:

    I was wondering several years before Covid why the younger people weren’t calling this out… that we now have technology, we do not have to be tethered to an office building. I saw this as a need to be fulfilled, but thought change would not come for some years up the road. It made no sense people were clogging up the roads, day after day here in LA… when 65 percent of most jobs could be done from ones home.
    If one thing Covid did in a positive turn is put a jumpstart on that timetable.

  6. K says:

    I was hired by my Healthcare employer in 2020 just a few months into the pandemic. They on boarded and trained me from start to finish. A couple tiny blips but I would grade the process as A. I will never work in an office again. If for some reason they attempt it I will find another remote job. Quite frankly for me and my health it is the only way I can work.

    • Whyforthelovel says:

      K I also now work full time from home and find it allows me to more more hours and be more productive because I can manage my chronic migraines and still work full days instead of missing work. I will. Ever work full time at an office again. Absolutely never

  7. MSTJ says:

    They can convert empty office buildings in apartments and condos for housing. Housing in many markets has become unaffordable due to lack of availability increasing costs to own or rent. I think homelessness (roomers, couch surfers, shelters and street sleepers) has increased as a result of unaffordable housing.

    • theRobinsons says:

      True Dat

    • Whyforthelovel says:

      I was just saying this to my husband yesterday! We have a 4 million house deficit for people to live in so turn those buildings into apartments and condos!

    • Kitten says:

      Exactly. Here in Boston, Mayor Wu is launching a new pilot program to convert downtown office space into housing. Hopefully this brings life back to the downtown area and also addresses our housing shortage.

    • Jackie jacks says:

      I know in NYC that’s been floated but for safety reasons it is not feasible to convert office space into residential in terms of certain high rises.
      I do feel like the excuse of cost is used a little too much considering how money can be dumped into construction but it would certainly open more jobs if a landlord were to try to do this to a building.
      It’ll be interesting to see what happens as we get farther and farther from the pandemic in time.

  8. Margot says:

    I understand and support the benefits of remote-work.
    I also think there are economic and social losses to the stores/restaurants/public-life that were part of office-life.
    Here’s hoping the hybrid model allows work-productivity and social/economic interactions (with those we neither work or live with), to evolve in tandem.

    • Lucky Charm says:

      I’ve found myself ordering lunch delivery MUCH more often than I ever did when working in the office pre-pandemic. Since I’m only in the office three days a week at most, I often don’t bother bringing lunch from home. So those restaurants are actually making more money off me than they ever did before. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  9. lucy2 says:

    My job is pretty collaborative, so it’s been difficult to have people in and out with the hybrid model, but we all want the flexibility to be able to do that when we need to. I deal with so much other management stuff in the office, sometimes if I have a big task I’ll work at home so I can work without interruptions. But during the pandemic I definitely worked longer hours, into the evenings, and I don’t like that. If I can walk out the door of the office at 5 (and don’t have to bring anything home) it’s better.

    • Kitten says:

      That’s the only thing I hate about WFH: the expectation that I’ll be available ALL the time, even after normal work hours. I really wish people would observe normal hours again because your insurance agent isn’t supposed to be “on-call”.

      • lucy2 says:

        I had contractors who would call at 7 am, and clients and my boss calling at 7 pm. It was not good. I didn’t answer any calls before 9 am, which helped.

  10. Lizzie says:

    The only comparison is IF when I worked in the office and had an office where I could close the door. But no, we work in long rows, not even cubes. People chat all day and I get very little done. At home I am alone, no one is distracting me, and I also have a door on my office (bedroom) when my husband is here. I also don’t mind working a little (not hours) more time because I don’t have to spend time commuting. Also, I work in IT and have worked remotely for over a decade depending on my current employer. It comes down to knowing how to manage work not people. If I meet deadlines, then that is all anyone needs to keep track of.

  11. DeltaJuliet says:

    A lot of my friends work from home and the amount of time they spend not working is amazing to me. I guess it depends on the person.

    • Lara (The Other) says:

      Thats the time people are chatting in an office or are distracted by their coworkers. I can do the workload of a whole office day in 4 hours at home. Less watercooler chats, no distracting noises from the other people (I can concentate if the person next to my is an the phone) etc..
      Together with the timesaving from not communting, I have araound three hours more free time and my boss gets the equivalten of two more hours of office work a day.

      • lisa says:

        I know a lot of people who think I dont work hard because im at home but I definitely get all my work done and more and most days need to help someone else. no matter how many times I say I am busy they dont see it because im in pajamas and can go to the door when I get a package.

      • Andrea says:

        I always had coworkers wanting to chat with me in person. Everyone wants to tell me their secrets, issues etc. Now, I am way more productive and way less distracted at home.

      • Kitten says:

        Exactly. It’s amazing how many people think that because one is physically at an office desk all day, that they’re working the whole time. The ebb and flow of most corporate jobs generally don’t require working every second of the day from 9AM till 5PM.

    • Elle says:

      I think it depends on the person and the job, too. I work from home at a contract attorney and the technology I have to use to do my job can “track” not only when I’m in the system but when I am reviewing documents. So my boss can see when I log in, log out, how many documents I review etc. Now could I be watching a movie while I work, sure. I don’t.

      I also know a former colleague who has taken on more than one project at a time. He would get fired from both companies if either of them found out.

    • Lucky Charm says:

      My wfh days i can clean house, do laundry, etc. in the same time increments wasted commuting and spent “chatting” with coworkers at the office, with the added benefit of not having to do those “after work”. So my work productivity and free time have both increased. I wouldn’t go back into the office full time for anything!

  12. lisa says:

    I’ve been full time remote since 08. the headhunters that call me tell me that they do not even have hybrid let alone in person jobs for what I do. it is definitely more productive at home, where I dont have to walk 10 minutes to the bathroom or to get a drink, where I am not freezing, and I havent spent an hour on the highway.

  13. AnneL says:

    I’m all for a hybrid model, which I think is a good compromise for most people? My husband’s office (he’s a lawyer) wanted the partners back this summer because the associates, especially the younger ones, were missing out on the mentoring and social aspects of work and it was becoming an issue. He still does things remotely, but he’s in the office a lot more than he was a year ago.

    It depends on the job and the person. I do think productivity can be higher at home for a lot of people, but not everyone. I also agree we’re better off not clogging the roads with unnecessary traffic, wasting gas and causing more pollution. There’s no reason employers can’t work something out with people that fills the needs of both the employees and the business, whatever it might be.

  14. trillion says:

    Here to echo what others have said about their partners that WFH. My husband recently went from WFH to a hybrid, and it blows my mind that his employer doesn’t see how much time is “wasted” commuting, parking, etc. when all of this can be so easily avoided. He’s a testing engineer and his work is quantifiable, so totally trackable. I hope he doesn’t return full time, because his quality of life is so much better not having to deal with commuting and dealing with interruptions at work. I have WFH options sometimes, and I certainly accomplish much more by not being on site, where I’m constantly pulled multiple directions by colleagues.

  15. Merrie says:

    Next month will be the one year anniversary of my employer announcing that those who can work from home are welcome to do so, as long as they come to campus for in-person meetings and programs as needed. My whole department comes in once a week in order to touch base on ongoing projects, etc. I’ve found I get ore work finished on the days I’m home, as I am social and like to talk to everyone when I’m on campus. I adore working from home and hope our new company president won’t change things when she comes on board at the end of the year.

  16. Ninaaa says:

    I joined an all-remote company in 2000 and never looked back – retired from it last year. I found myself working harder and longer hours – maybe because the job required it, but also because our culture emphasized teamwork and that everyone had to do their job so the next person could complete theirs. While there were certainly times when I had to be at my desk by 7:30 or 8 to accommodate someone in another time zone, the emphasis was on getting the work done, not sitting there for the sake of it. We got together in person once or twice a year when we could, but I spent a lot of time on conference calls and with the exception of a couple of supervisors along the way most were productive and to the point. I used to say I would never be able to go back to an office … and now that I’m retired I don’t have to!

  17. Onemoretime says:

    I’ve been working from home going on 15 years. Right before the pandemic I got a new manager who was on a power trip & has nothing better to do than watch people and made my team return to the office 6 months before Covid hit and shut our offices down. Now he has no one under him & my employer is moving to a smaller building instead of multiple large ones. Win, win for everyone but my ex power tripping manager!

  18. Kitten says:

    I work smarter now–not harder–on my hybrid schedule. I save my WFH days to tackle emails, phone calls, and requests from clients. On my in-office days, I do all my process-oriented/paperwork stuff because I have three screens and it’s a more efficient set-up than what I have at home. It works out great and I absolutely love not being chained to my desk all day, every day.

  19. Truthiness says:

    A former colleague is finally winning the argument to work from home for her over the top ambitious company. It took colon cancer for her to win that argument. The good news is that she’s cancer free and has an oncologist who is willing to fight about it.

  20. AC says:

    The company I work for has had a policy of full time working remotely since 2020. For the most part it has been very productive. Who needs to go to the office when you talk to colleagues from across the world. Slack, Teams, VPN, sharepoints, makes it so much easier now to communicate. And the best thing of all, you save time when you don’t need to commute to the office(and make it more environment friendly by not having to drive a car each day).
    Elon Musk is just a narcissist when he says wfh doesn’t work. That’s just him wanting people to be in the office as he’s a complete dictator and micromanager.

  21. Minnieder says:

    I started WFH in 2019. Then when covid hit, the company moved everyone out of the offices. 2 months ago they decided that sending as many people possible back to offices was the move. Needless to say, after everyone was given their designation (WFH, hybrid, or completely in the office) a LOT of people have left. I was lucky to be told I can keep working from home (“for now”) but was fully prepared to look for a new job, as I could never go back to commuting/being in an office.

  22. Kristin says:

    Working from home has been a godsend for me because I have severe endometriosis and chronic back pain. For the past ten years I had to quit my job as a full-time litigator because I got to the point I just couldn’t physically do the commute/office setting without being in crippling pain. Now I can do remote work propped up in bed with soft pillows supporting my back!

  23. Pam says:

    Working from home has been the BEST thing to happen to my career. I’ve had nothing but stellar reviews in the 3 years I’ve been doing this. Thankfully, before the pandemic was over, we were all given the option to work from home permanently, which I took my company up on. No more commuting, office gossip and drama, no more idiot upper management strutting around your desk to see if you’re really working, no more meeting in person, running from conference room to conference room, like it’s high school. Best of all, no more trying to decide if I really should stay home and work from home during a snowstorm, as it’s a moot point!

  24. Original penguin says:

    I would love to have office space to work from. It’s ridiculous all the space that my work things are taking up in my apartment. All you people who love it I must have massive houses. Whilst the reason young people aren’t clamouring for it is because they’re having to work in their bedrooms in a shared appt.

    Also I love seeing my coworkers, most of the commenters above seem to not get on with your coworkers. I find we get so much creative collaboration when you actually meet face to face

    Honestly it’s also really isolating too for a single person. It’s clear that if you’re an introvert your experience is very different from an extrovert.

  25. Oleg says:

    Yes, they work harder because they are evaluated only by the output. Another downside is that it is hard for remote workers to get promoted. To solve these problems co-workers should be connected through virtual frosted glass. Such connection is easy to leave running in the background. This will bring all of them at the same screen distance to each other. Tools like provide such possibility.