Are Companies More Productive Letting Employees Work from Home?

On March 25th, Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, posted a series of tweets containing information about the corporate messaging forum’s recent surge in popularity as a result of the pandemic.

“The shift is dramatic,” he wrote, going on to compare the numbers: In 2019, Slack gained about 5,000 net new paid customers in Q3, then another 5,000 in Q4. In 2020, however, Slack gained around 7,000 in just half of Q1 (and another 2,000 a week after that).

This sudden adoption of working-from-home technologies by businesses all over the world does not apply to Slack alone. ZoomInfo’s data shows a similar increase in the adoption of a number of other tools as well.

Graph showing percent change of technologies adopted during the pandemic. Web conferencing is by far the highest among electronic signatures, HR management, and file sharing.

What this data suggests is that businesses are not merely transitioning to a working-from-home model—they are settling into one, adopting technologies that will serve them for the long-term. 

So, what does this mean for our businesses?

Research Suggests Productivity Benefits of Working from Home

As far as overall productivity goes, there is an overwhelming amount of research that shows that, under normal circumstances, working from home increases productivity.

  • 13% increase in productivity among the call center employees who were allowed to work from home (Stanford University)
  • 100% more time was spent discussing non-work related topics by in-office employees (Airtasker)
  • 91% of employees reported that they feel they’re more productive when working from home (TinyPulse

This research, in conjunction with ZoomInfo’s data on the rapid increase in adoption rates of working-from-home technologies, suggests that businesses would normally see a collective upswing in productivity as a result of the transition to remote work.

The widespread sense of fear and anxiety caused by the pandemic, however, calls another topic into question—one that can, unfortunately, be overlooked by the corporate world under normal circumstances but now simply cannot be ignored: mental health.

Challenges of Working from Home

While working from home does help to eliminate distractions, that same benefit can also create a unique mix of social isolation and heightened pressure to keep busy, which can take a serious toll on an employee’s mental health.

  • 20% of remote workers struggle with feeling lonely (Buffer)
  • 41% of remote workers report having high stress levels, whereas only 25% of their in-office counterparts report the same (United Nations)
  • Overall, remote employees are more likely to feel shunned, left out, and mistreated (Harvard Business Review)

Given that this research was conducted prior to the pandemic, the potential for working from home to negatively impact our mental health is greater now than ever before, which, no doubt, also feeds back into the collective productivity of an organization.

As shown in a study published in Fast Company, performance increased by a whopping 20% for workers who spent a mere 15 minutes socializing with coworkers.

With that said, while the acquisition of new technologies and elimination of distractions brought on by the work-from-home model might temporarily benefit corporate businesses, if there are no measures taken to support the mental health of employees, then the benefits will remain just that: temporary.

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