With the pandemic winding down, more employees are shifting away from remote work, and starting to return to the office. Many employers are measuring the impact on productivity during this transition.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2019 and 2021, the number of employees working from home tripled, increasing from 5.7% to 17.9%. This represented an approximate 18.6 million more employees who worked remotely as reported in the 2021 American Community Survey.
With the necessity of remote work continuing during the pandemic, productivity became a top concern since new technology and employee supervision had to be managed from a distance.
A report by Deloitte found the productivity of workers increased during 2020 due to the following three factors:
Effectiveness – Accomplishing specific tasks versus the amount of time spent working on them. Having clear and measurable goals allowed everyone to see the results each employee achieved.
Efficiency – Using the online tools available to their full potential made completing tasks a more efficient process. Reducing excessive meetings that hindered efficiency was also a factor.
Empowerment – Employees who felt more trusted and empowered responded by being more productive. Having the flexibility of not adhering to a traditional 9 to 5 schedule also made productivity rise.
Many workers had to incorporate new office spaces at home along with the ability to balance their work and family responsibilities. After adapting to their new home offices, many discovered how this flexibility made them more productive such as:
Choosing their ideal schedule: Many employees found a flexible schedule that allowed them to do work based on when they were typically the most productive. Whether a morning or evening person, this flexibility allowed them to accomplish more goals during the day.
Eliminating the daily commute – According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, 2 hours per week for each worker was saved in 2021 and 2022. Also, 40% of the time saved was allocated back into the job.
Reducing financial and mental stress – Having the time to go to a doctor’s appointment, manage child care, and save on transportation costs, all help to reduce mental stress and increase productivity due to less distractions.
According to a 2023 Entrepreneur Magazine article, “6 Things Gen Z Employees Want Their Managers to Know about the Workplace in 2023”, is the current blueprint for attracting this generation to physically return to the office. Their main concerns included focusing on mental health, career development, and cultivating strong relationships.
Since Generation Z is the newest part of the workforce, they are often leading the discussion about how employers can retain them. Usually the more flexible and inclusive employers are, will be more attractive to this generation. What will often discourage these employees to return to the office are:
No schedule flexibility – A strict schedule and no flexibility is not preferred by Generation Z. Who will often feel restricted, and looking for their next job opportunity making them less productive overall.
Lack of career development – Lack of career opportunities and not getting the chance to learn more about the company, often will discourage Generation Z to be productive.
Company culture is not valued – Although Generation Z generally focuses on technology, they also like face-to-face interactions, and positive feedback. When they work in an environment that doesn’t value these qualities, they are not usually motivated to be as productive as possible.
Communicate clear expectations – A discussion giving both the employer and the employee a chance to discuss their goals that would make returning to the office a smoother process that is more productive.
Less distractions – Any distractions that an employee wouldn’t normally encounter at home should be addressed so it doesn’t interfere with their productivity. This includes multiple meetings that are very long.
Work incentives – Introducing work incentives that address solutions for returning to the office will often help employees cope better with the transition. This can include child care options, car pools, and flexible scheduling.
The benefits of a more productive work environment benefits everyone and makes the culture of the office one that encourages creativity and collaboration. According to Indeed, other benefits include:
Improved health and overall well-being – People who are more productive tend to also be more focused on accomplishing goals sooner and taking better care of themselves during the process.
Meaningful contribution to the project – Having a sense of purpose that contributes to a bigger goal or task makes individual productivity a more meaningful and fulfilling contribution.
Happier mood when accomplishing goals – As employees feel good about being productive, endorphins are released in their system that results in a happier mood that directly benefits the employee and the team.