Remote employees aren't productive
Productivity in remote work is relative and depends on the person. Studies often show that individual difference factors play a big role in who works more effectively remotely and who doesn’t. For example, qualities like self-discipline and extraversion can play a big part1, 16. Nonetheless, while evidence suggest that remote employees could get distracted, overall productivity actually increases when working remotely.
On the one hand, research shows that employees have a tendency to procrastinate more or engage in other tasks when working from home1, 11. Furthermore, Harvard University researchers also found that employees who self-select into working remotely generally tend to be less productive than employees who choose to go into the office12.
On the other hand, research also shows that newly remote workers experienced a rise in productivity, and focus, as well as better quality meetings11, despite the distractions at home. Harvard University researchers also found increases in productivity of around 8% when employees began working remotely, and this effect was the same for those who transitioned to remote work before the beginning of the pandemic and for those who began working remotely after12. Similar results were obtained in studies conducted before the pandemic: research on call centre workers in China found that WFH resulted in a 13% performance increase, 4% of which was a result of more calls conducted per minute and 9% was a result of more minutes worked per shift13. Likewise, professional research has also found that once employees settled into remote work, productivity increased14. A study by OWL Labs and Global Workplace Analytics found that 75% of US respondents believed that they were equally as or even more productive working from home during the pandemic3. Another Global Workplace Analytics report found that 72% of respondents claimed to be able to manage distractions and interruptions at home, while only 40% of respondents believed they could do so at the office15. A potential explanation for this could be that remote workers are better able to balance their work and home duties when they are able to work remotely and complete work tasks at different times of the day, rather than the standard 9-to-5.