COLLEGE STATION, Texas — From the onset of the pandemic, it's a question employers across the lone star state have been asking. Does working from home mean less productivity?
The Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M has been looking closely at an answer.
The study was conducted by placing a tracking software on an oil and gas company’s computers that monitored 264 employees.
“Across the board, we just didn’t see differences,” said Dr. Mark Benden, Director of Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M University. “It really was a matter of wherever people were, they were able to get their jobs done and get their work done productively.”
Researchers found that even though there was a decline in computer use, employees were still productive at home as they would have been in the office.
Before COVID-19 made remote work the way to work, the Ergo Center was already running a study focusing on the larger concept.
“We were already running a study on how office workers interact with their computer, their mouse, their keyboards,” said Dr. Benden. “We had over 100 metrics we were tracking. Every second of every day looking at things like keystrokes and errors, and how many words per minutes you type.”
Dr. Benden says when you stop interacting with your computer, the timer stops to show the overall activity on the computer, but this doesn’t necessarily equal productivity.
“If you pick up a regular phone or a cell phone to talk to somebody, that may be the most productive part of your day,” said Dr. Benden. “It may be the most important thing you the whole day is having that conversation or making that decision or that breakthrough for your company.”
The study shows that there’s an emphasis on how people can be busy but not productive, and how small tasks like taking a phone call, can make the biggest impact on work.
“It’s really what you get done at the end of the year, remote or sitting in an office,” said Rick Baysinger, Remote Worker in College Station. “For us, we always measure results and if people are working remote and still have good results at the end of the year, then great. It’s not about the control and the supervisor having to figure out exactly what their people are doing all day.”
While efficiency is critical, the study shows that people enjoyed having flexibility in their schedules.
“People have the flexibility to get other things done, other tasks done,” said Dr. Benden. “Now that might mean they need to come back from running an errand or picking up their children from school and get back on the computer and do some more work that evening, but they certainly had the flexibility with the remote.”
No surprise, on Friday afternoons, there’s far less productivity which could show how companies can adjust their scheduling and work weeks.
“I’ve been working remote eight out of the last ten years,” said Baysinger. “Some days, it’s four hours because I feel like I can get all my work done, and again, those are the results that I’m getting done what I need to do. That half a day, not every day, but occasionally two- or three-hours blips, I’ll go run errands I need to. Again, it’s all about getting the results.”
Rick asks why we are going backward if we have the data to support employees can work effectively remote.
The study shows those working remotely completed just as much work as those who work in person, getting other tasks accomplished throughout the day, while still tackling their main job.