Working hours grew but productivity fell in work from home: study

Working hours grew but productivity fell in work from home: study


A study into work from home trends has shown a decline in employees’ productivity, to compensate for which they have to work extra hours.

The study, authored by Michael Gibbs from Chicago Booth, and Friederike Mengel and Christoph Siemroth from University of Essex, surveyed 10,000 employees of an unnamed major IT company based in Asia over 17 months before and during work from home (WFH).

The primary finding was that employees significantly increased total hours worked, by about 30 per cent, during WFH. Much of this increase came from working outside of normal office hours, the survey said.

However, the employees continued to meet their goals despite the shift to WFH. There was no significant change in measured output, the primary evaluation metric for each employee, the survey stated.

Since the goals had not been changed, but working hours still increased, the survey estimated that productivity has declined considerably, as much as 20 per cent.

“These results are consistent with employees becoming less productive during WFH and working longer hours to compensate,” the survey established.

As for the reasons behind this decline in productivity, the study ascertained that employees spent more time engaged in various types of formal and informal meetings during WFH, especially video conferences.

Another reason was that the employees spent substantially less time working without interruption. They also spent less time networking, both within the firm and with clients, as well as less time receiving coaching or 1:1 meetings with supervisors.

“These findings suggest that increased coordination costs during WFH at least partially explain the drop in productivity,” the study said.

The study further discovered that the productivity of women was more negatively affected by WFH than men. However, this gender difference was not due to the presence of children in the home. Rather, the likely culprit is other demands placed on women in the domestic setting.

Meanwhile, employees with children at home increased working hours significantly more than those who did not have children at home, accounting for a greater decrease in productivity.

“Among other considerations, these and other findings suggest that communication, coordination, and collaboration are hampered under WFH, and employers should not underestimate the value of networking and uninterrupted work time on employee productivity,” the study concluded.

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