Why the Critics Are Wrong About Remote Work
Our new survey proves they just don’t get it.
Yes, caregiving employees are actually working from home.
If you’ve been following the headlines, you’d think a recession is right around the corner, productivity is declining and our brief era of remote work will come to an end soon. It’s a doomsday message that’s popular with remote work skeptics, but here’s the thing: It’s not entirely right.
Yes, a recession looks likely in 2023, but that doesn’t mean managers will respond by canning remote employees and forcing everyone back into the office. Here’s why: Employee caregivers and company leaders agree that remote work is better for productivity.
That’s one of the remarkable findings from our Modern Workplace Report, done in partnership with Care.com. Together, we surveyed 1,000 employee caregivers and 500 C-suite executives and benefits decision makers to assess how remote work has impacted caregivers, and particularly women, who suffered astounding setbacks during the height of the pandemic. We found that both employees and managers have a surprisingly optimistic view of how the workplace has evolved into one that’s fairer, more understanding, more flexible and more productive.
That’s probably not the message you’ve been hearing. With worker productivity plummeting in the first half of 2022 to the lowest levels recorded since 1947, there’s been a renewed push by remote work critics to blame it on today’s more flexible workplace, where many employees split their working hours between the office and their home. According to the naysayers, employees who work from home aren’t actually working; they’re collecting a paycheck while caring for their kids or pumping the pedals of their Peloton. That’s why productivity is down.
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It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of worker productivity. Employees tend to scale back—consciously or unconsciously—when they feel bored, disrespected or burned out. With burnout and stress at all-time highs across professions, it makes sense that we’re seeing a dramatic rise in “quiet quitting,” a new term for the age-old concept of doing the bare minimum at work.
But remote work is actually the antidote for disengagement, at least for employees with caregiving responsibilities, who make up 73% of the workforce. In our survey, more than three-quarters (76%) of caregivers say remote work improves their quality of life and 77% of managers agree. That’s partially because workers get to ditch a long commute and spend more time with their spouse and kids, but it’s also because they now have the flexibility to tackle domestic duties during the day. Caregivers strongly prefer hybrid work for life balance, happiness and reducing stress, according to our survey. And decades of research shows that happy employees are productive employees.
Don’t believe it? Just look at our data: More than half (55%) of caregivers say remote work results in increased productivity, and 58% of managers agree. That’s likely because nearly half of caregivers (46%) say they work more hours remotely. Contrary to the naysayers’ predictions, parents aren’t slacking off at home; they’re simply working different hours. This matches the findings of a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, examining how a shift to hybrid impacted productivity at a technology firm. Researchers found that employees worked fewer hours on home days, but they worked longer hours on office days and on the weekends.
Simply put, flexible work is working for caregivers. Instead of scrapping it, leaders who are concerned about productivity should look for ways to make sure work-from-home employees feel connected to the company and their colleagues. There is some evidence, according to Pew Research, that remote work could be driving lower engagement and satisfaction among younger employees, who rely more on their managers for regular feedback and career development. In our survey, 60% of employees say they feel like less of a team member and 63% say it’s harder to get face time with their manager or considered for assignments when working remotely. Nearly two thirds (61%) worry remote work could limit their career advancement. Clearly, there’s room for improvement when it comes to getting remote right.
But that doesn't mean we should all return to the office en masse.
It means company leaders should take a hard look at how they’re implementing a remote or hybrid model, and make sure it’s working for all of their employees.
INTRODUCING OUR NEW WORK-LIFE WALLET!
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Jayla is a member of NAPO, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and a Certified Fair Play Method Facilitator. She can help you diagnose why your home isn't working for you and with improving your household systems, organization and space planning strategies. Book Jayla today!
LOVE TO SEE IT
New York City’s pay transparency measure launches. The law requires employers to provide a salary range on job listings. Some large New York employers, including JPMorgan Chase and American Express, have already begun including salary ranges on postings. The law is intended to help reduce the gender pay gap and other disparities.
HATE TO SEE IT
Workplace surveillance is on the rise. Companies are using technology to track keyboard strokes, mouse movements and facial recognition to ensure employees who work from home don’t step away from their laptops for too long. Experts say it's “a working mom’s hell” that won’t increase productivity. (We agree. See above!)