Back in the “normal times,” 62% of employees were working remotely with some level of frequency. Among this group of remote workers, there was some discrepancy between employees who worked from home full-time and those who would work from home once a week or once a month, which nicely illustrated how flexibility was the name of the game when it came to assessing the state of remote work. Fast forward to the end of February 2020 and up to the present, and the idea of flexibility is almost a quaint one. Remote work is no longer a choice…it is a fact of life.
Over the past few weeks, it seems that nearly every collaboration and communications vendor has offered their take on remote work best practices (ourselves included). With all of this consternation about ensuring remote workers remain productive through this transition, we wanted to quickly uncover whether productivity was in jeopardy as the world began to work from home. For this reason, we launched the BlueJeans 2020 Remote Work survey on March 23rd to pull together a pulse check on how remote workers were getting by.
While the benefits of remote work have always been touted by those vocal full-time remote employees and the vendors that support them, it was still somewhat surprising that across our survey population of 274-people, 40.1% of respondents agreed that they felt more productive when working from home. Interestingly, 34.2% felt that they were equally as productive at home as when they are in the office, leaving just a quarter of the population feeling less productive while at home. That is really good news for organizations that were uncertain how this giant remote work experiment would shake out.
While there are a variety of factors contributing to this heightened sense of remote work productivity, one of the most compelling is the sheer amount of time that remote workers are investing in their workday. Across our survey population, remote workers are working an additional 3.13 hours per day while working from home. Those workers who feel like they are significantly more productive at home are reportedly working an additional 4.64 hours per day.
Assumedly, the hours saved from daily commuting (among other things) are helping workers feel and be more productive, but what if the real outcome is that by squeezing in an extra 12 hours across a 4-day period, remote workers could have the opportunity to eliminate one day from the work week? With news of the productivity benefits of the 4-day work week making the rounds last year, perhaps this social distancing-mandated remote work will provide enough data points that a shorter week could be the way of the future.
Furthermore, remote workers are having fun with their new work reality by keeping it casual – 63.7% wearing laid back dress, with 23.3% going with business up top and party down below. This freedom of choice doesn’t stop at just the dress code—at home we're now all free to choose our own snack of choice, which means the occasional overindulgence is bound to happen. Respondents said they prefer salty snacks: 39.1% vs. 28.1% Healthy (me too!).
If you’re feeling like all that snacking is adding up disproportionally to the amount you’re burning off, you’re not alone—49.4% of respondents say they have not been able to exercise regularly, with 31.8% getting about the same, and 18.7% taking advantage of the opportunity to work out more.
And while the “morning commute coffee” may have dissipated, the overall coffee intake for most has not—with 45.9% reporting they are drinking the same amount of coffee. At the margins, 20.9% are drinking way more and 18.3% are drinking less (14.9% of remote workers don’t drink caffeine).
Even though we are seeing a productivity surge for remote workers, it goes without saying that distractions abound during this period of uncertainty. When we asked our survey participants to highlight their biggest distraction while working from home the top three responses were: Taking Care of Kids (27.6%), Reading Social Media (26.5%), and Checking Out the News (26.1%)…fairly unsurprising, but surprisingly consistent across the three. 9.7% admitted that watching streaming media was their biggest distraction when working from home.
Interestingly, this “Netflix & Chill” segment was the least productive across all the different distraction types, while the segment that was most distracted by cleaning the house was the most productive.
To further understand ongoing attitudes toward continuing to work from home, we also asked our survey population to designate how much longer they would tolerate having to withstand remote work. On average, respondents are willing to work from home for 99.3 more days (sometime near early July), which bodes well for social distancing and our efforts to flatten the curve.
That said, not everyone is game – while 27.2% are satisfied with working the whole year remote or longer if need be, 7.7% of the survey population wants to head back to work immediately. Perhaps most interesting is the finding that those distracted by streaming media have the longest overall tolerance with the idea of continuing to work from home – coming in at around 183 days. If this tells me one thing, it’s that the seemingly infinite amount of content out there is keeping some people very engaged.
Overall, the experiences of remote workers through this period have no doubt been challenged by the unfortunate consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, yet these workers have generally thrived in the face of adversity. While this data is just a snapshot in time, it provides strong evidence in the benefits of working from home and the productivity gains available through this new remote work reality. While it is too hard to predict the future at this point, we can suggest with some degree of accuracy that the working world will be much more open to remote work arrangements going forward and that in and of itself could lead to significant gains for organizations across the globe.