The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic thrust many companies and offices into waters previously uncharted–operating remotely. Working from home and communicating over zoom certainly presented an unexpected learning curve across the board; but, this more autonomous way of working has prompted some companies to implement remote work into a longer-term plan. Daniel Pinto, chief operating officer and co-president of JPMorgan, told CNBC in an interview this past February, “Going back to the office with 100% of the people 100% of the time, I think there is zero chance of that. As for everyone working from home all the time, there is also zero chance of that.” This suggests that companies like JPMorgan might transition to a hybrid working model in the long-term. Pinto goes on to imply that remote work will depend on the position: “…there are so many functions that our 260,000 people perform, they’re all relatively different. We’ll have to cater to the needs of particular functions, but it’s not like everyone will just do what they want. It has to be somewhat structured and well-thought through.”
From an operations standpoint, the advantages and disadvantages are subjective–companies save operating costs as the demand for office space declines. But, from a more personal standpoint, how could operating from home be beneficial for the individual employee? Obviously, much of this depends on their position, their team leader, and whether their job can accommodate a partial or fully remote schedule. Kristen Senz, in an article for Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, reports that at least 16 percent of workers who transitioned to at-home work as a result of the pandemic will remain remote. Certainly, there are personal benefits which immediately come to mind; a better work-life balance, saving time and money on a commute, etc.
The prospect of transitioning to remote long-term begs one essential question: Is working from home as productive as working from the office? Statistics show a mixed bag of answers. On one hand, in a July 2020 survey, 29% of participants felt less productive working from home (24% felt more productive, and 47% report no change in productivity). However, these results were taken mere months after the onset of the global pandemic, in the middle of summer–perhaps these variables influenced these answers. A Forbes article cites an opposing statistic , which relied on non-invasive technology to gather activity data (as opposed to self-reported answers) tracked a 47% increase in worker productivity in May 2020. Article-contributor Chris Westfall cites ways that individuals can increase their at-home productivity–arranging a comfortable work space, setting a time structure, and staying engaged with co-workers and colleagues. The article suggests that, while working from home is a learning curve for many, there are small aspects of our work life that we still can control–and these can make a big difference.
Clearly, the question of remote work vs. productivity produces a wide array of responses. Our work lives are subjective–it is near impossible to predict our individual productivity based on broad-stroke polls and statistics. Working remotely–or, at least, a hybrid working schedule of at-home and in-office work days–could very well have a long-term presence. Whether it is the right choice for you requires some reflection. How could a better work-life balance support your productivity in the long-term? Do you find it more stimulating to work collaboratively, or autonomously? If the latter, how has working remotely affected communications with clients, colleagues, and teams? While answers may vary person-to-person, one certainty remains: after the pandemic, remoteness will certainly have a place in the mainstream.