Sorry Mayer Haters, but she had it right: Work-from-Home Employees are Less Efficient

Dan Enthoven's picture

Enkata works with companies that have large and often distributed workforces.  As part of our solution, we collect detailed information on what people do all day, how they do it, and how good they are at it.  Because we look at task workers, it’s easy for us to get “apples to apples” comparisons between home based employees and office based employees doing the same tasks for the same employer.  

The bottom line is this:  Work at home people are less efficient.  It isn’t even close.  

Here are just some of the things we found:

  • Higher Productivity: In one case, people coming into an office got 50% more work done per hour than people at home.  Maybe they’re learning from their peers.  Or maybe they just have a better idea of what is expected of them. Either way, they get more done.
     
  • Lower idle time: Don’t blame water cooler chatter for distracting employees. Home based workers have distractions of their own.  It shows up in their work. Enkata found that home based agents have 30% more idle time during their work hours than office based employees.  
     
  • Shorter breaks: Amazingly, home workers take longer to get to the kitchen and back then office based workers take to get their lunches. Or, more accurately, what we found was that home based workers have a longer percentage of hours clocked out on breaks.  
     

This doesn’t mean all stay at home workers are bad or lazy. In fact, we’ve found a variety of things that impact remote worker productivity. Remote workers get hit with everything from slower VPN connections that make applications bog down, to an inability to get timely help when they get stuck.  It’s hard for managers and workers to see and resolve these problems.  

The advantages of a remote workforce are huge.  Companies have a broader talent pool to hire from, can hire in lower cost regions, and don’t bear the cost of office buildings to house the workers.

Unfortunately, many companies try to apply traditional management styles and tools to remote workers, and this simply doesn’t work.  Managers need better tools to help them understand what their workers are doing. Remote workers need better tools to understand how they fit in, and keep them engaged in their jobs.  Everyone needs help understanding what they can do to drive productivity and quality improvements.