November 18, 2020

WFH: Productive or Innovative?

At the start of the pandemic, many companies feared that working remotely would cut done on productivity. Months in, that has proven not to be the case. Many employees feel more productive working remotely. 82% of senior executives surveyed reported seeing productivity levels either stay the same or increase because of working from home. WFH has cut down on something surprising: innovation.

82% of senior executives surveyed reported seeing productivity levels either stay the same or increase because of working from home.

WFH lowers office costs and shortens commutes. Employees like the freedom. 69% of respondents to Microsoft’s WFH survey said that the main reasons liked working remotely were: dressing more casually, being able to personalize their workspace, and having their pet by their side. Working from home also cuts down on casual workplace interruptions. That same Microsoft study found that before WFH, workers felt like 52% of their workday was wasted due to unnecessary disturbances. That number has fallen to 41% since the beginning of the pandemic.

Michael Parke, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who worked on the Microsoft study, said: “It seems that employees are able to hunker down and get less distracted while working remotely… However, the cost seems to be a loss of sense of purpose, which at work, is largely driven through strong and cohesive relationships and seeing how your tasks have impact on others.”

However, the cost seems to be a loss of sense of purpose, which at work, is largely driven through strong and cohesive relationships and seeing how your tasks have impact on others.”

Michael Parke

Working remotely means it’s hard to connect with coworkers, both for formal communicate as well as for personal connections. This has had a direct impact on companies’ ability to innovate. The Microsoft study reported that the percentage of leaders who felt that their companies were innovative dropped 16% in 2020. Without sharing a physical space brainstorming and collaboration is more difficult. It’s harder to come up with new ideas as well as enact them.

The overnight and “temporary” switch to working remotely has created many challenges for employers and employees alike. WFH on this scale is such a new thing that solutions to challenges and long-term repercussions are still very much unknown. Being aware of challenges as they come up is the only way for companies to work on effective solutions.

What do you think will be the solution to the productivity-innovation struggle?

About Skyler Schreck

Skyler is a Marketing Assistant at First Direct. Prior to First Direct, she worked as a graphic designer. Content creator by day and content consumer by night, Skyler's hobbies include reading, snacking, and binge-watching all available shows.