Remote Work May Actually Be Good for Business

Working remotely doesn’t negatively affect productivity. It may actually even

enhance both employee and company resiliency, a new study finds.

Covid-19 caused an overwhelming surge of Americans to work from home in 2020, and a new study shows that employee and company resiliency can be enhanced if remote work is offered to employees during natural disasters and other events. Research was conducted with a company located in Texas to analyze data from 264 employees. During the research, Hurricane Harvey forced employees to work from home for an extended period of time.

The study observed employee technology data before, during, and after the hurricane. It was found that computer use did decline, but during the seven-month period of the employees working remotely, the data returned to pre-hurricane levels. This showed that working from home does not negatively affect workplace productivity.

“In the future, there will be a greater percentage of the workforce who is involved in some sort of office-style technology work activities,” reports Mark Benden, director of the Ergonomics Center at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health.

“Almost all of the study’s employees were right back up to the same level of output as they were doing before Hurricane Harvey. This is a huge message right now for employers because we’re having national debates about whether or not employees should be able to work remotely or in a hybrid schedule,” he says.

The Ergonomics Center has launched this large study in order to gauge the health of information workers. Although the work is seemingly less taxing than blue collar, information workers are still prone to injury, like carpal tunnel syndrome. “The research says that if you work a certain way at a certain pace over a certain duration, you’re more likely to become injured from that work,” Benden says. “But if you work a little less or a little less often or break up the duration or have certain other character traits—like posture—then you’re less likely to develop a problem from doing your office work.”

Benden and his team believe that this information can be used to help employees form healthy behaviors, including those who work remotely. The research will also begin tracking the ergonomic environment of employee’s private home offices. They believe that tracking this data will help employers address remote employee health issues such as depression, stress, and substance abuse. “The question was whether we could track people and rather than letting them stay in a bad place, a bad habit, or bad behavior, could we give them a healthful nudge over the computer to remind them that it was time to take a walk or a break. We as humans are not very good at keeping track of time, especially when we’re in the zone. In order to keep us from physically hurting our bodies, we need to have nudges and reminders, which people respond to, and which work really well,” Bender explained. He reiterated that taking breaks does not hinder an employees’ quality of work.

“The people who took the recommended breaks were more productive overall. They got more done,” Bender said.  “We need to learn this about people, we need to teach people about it, and then we need to help people actually do it.”

By: Beth Gray