It’s an open secret. We all work a little less hard when we work from home. Anecdotally, we’ve all heard someone quip, “it’s alright, I’m working from home tomorrow”, as they make a beeline for the bar to order the fourth round of drinks during a midweek evening pub session.
But now there’s a new study which shows that – even if we’re not hungover – we all take our foot off the gas a little whilst working from home.
A new working paper, published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, looked at the productivity of workers in the data entry sector in India. It found that the productivity of those working from home was 18 per cent lower than those in office.
Sure, it’s just one study. But more and more firms are mandating their staff back into the office for the majority of the week as the tide turns against a setup that for too long has overly favoured working from home.
For younger workers, being in the office is particularly important. It was reported in May that Deloitte and PwC were forced to offer more training to those who went through school or university during the lockdowns, after noticing they had worse teamwork and communication skills.
This dire problem is not going to be solved by endlessly messaging over Slack for the majority of the week. It’s almost too simple to spell out. Collaboration is best done in person. Confidence is developed outside of comfort zones.
And let’s be honest, remote working is very much a privilege afforded to white-collar workers, and something that is impossible for the restaurant workers, cleaners and tradespeople whose professions simply don’t allow it.
Of course, working from home has its place. The ability to do so on occasion is a great benefit, especially for those with young children. It’s clear that many firms have taken advantage of this during recent rail strikes – there are almost certainly some productivity gains to be had there. But it should be the exception, not the rule.
Note to readers: True to form, this editorial was written from City A.M. towers.