One-third of workers admit to being less productive at home

12 November 2021 3 min. read

One-third of the workforce have warned that without support, home work will see them become less productive in the months ahead. A new study has found that organisations risk stifling whatever boost their might have been in their change of scenery, having done their best to recreate the same old working patterns via digital technology.

When governments around the world created a lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, non-essential businesses were faced with a major challenge. They needed to find ways to adapt the responsibilities of their labour to suit remote work.

While initially, this worried business leaders, who suspected it would be harder to micro-manage the working patterns of their staff remotely, the opposite quickly became apparent. A succession of reports found that workers enjoyed boosted work-life balance and communication with colleagues in lockdown – something which in turn gave them the energy and support necessary to improve their productivity.

Homeworking challenges

However, the longer remote working continues, the further these benefits seem to retract. Now, a new study from RADA Business School has suggested that while 20% of UK workers feel more productive from home, 35% say they feel less productive.

This seems to be linked to a combination of other factors. For example, 50% of staff said that they felt isolated or lonely. Meanwhile, those living in smaller and shared housing, noted that working from home can present a number of logistical problems too. Around 30% of workers struggled with having no dedicated workspace, and 19% stated they had to share their workspace with others.

Many firms have sought to hybridise their working week, to capitalise on the heightened productivity seen earlier in the pandemic. However, these figures suggest that they will not get the most from such a move unless they offer more adequate support to staff to make use of such initiatives.

Simon Delaney, Tutor and Client Director at RADA Business, commented on the findings, “It’s clear there are significant benefits to working from home, and it is not surprising many people are choosing to blend this with time in the office. But a year and a half on from the first national lockdown, there remain some challenges, with communication being just one of the issues. Organisations, teams, and individuals are experiencing a steep learning curve in making hybrid working a success, and managing some of the unintended consequences.”

Homework benefits

So far, it does not seem as though organisations have put much thought into what ‘hybrid working’ looks like, aside from recreating the same old models of business digitally, in people’s homes. For example, prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that more than 2 million years of productivity were wasted annually, thanks to poorly organised or unimportant meetings being inflicted on employees. This determination to micro-manage was always counterproductive, even before lockdown, so the fact they are now being reproduced digitally seems destined to lower productivity.

On top of the usual issues with seemingly endless meetings, though, now they have additional problems. Around 33% of workers said they struggled with technical problems during virtual calls, while 22% workers also reported being distracted by their own image, and 19% felt self-conscious while using video conference lines.

None of this is to say working from home should be written off, though. Rather, workers seem keen for a more imaginative approach to it, emphasising its strengths in a hybrid capacity. A sizeable 45% said they would be very interested in making the switch to homeworking permanent, while even 80% of those who did not want a permanent switch wanted the option to work from home in the future. Talking about the benefits of remote working, over half said it saved time and money, while a further 50% said they enjoyed more flexibility, and 42% noted the spending more time with their family was a major plus.