Are Remote Workers More Productive?

As the technology to work from anywhere advances, more companies worldwide are hiring remote engineers. Remote engineers typically work from their home, virtual office, coffee shop, or anywhere other than their employer's main office. The number of such remote engineers used to be relatively less a few years ago. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become mainstream.
Remote work benefits companies in many ways. It can enable them to hire the best talent even if they cannot relocate that person; it reduces office costs and allows for a more diverse workplace by extending job opportunities to more people. As communications improve, remote working becomes more feasible.
Even as businesses see benefits from remote working, many companies are still skeptical about it, citing previous bad experiences related to productivity as the reason for their apprehension. However, working remotely can be more productive than in an in-office work environment. Here are three reasons a remote engineer can be more effective than an in-office engineer.
If an employee were to commute to work every day 1 hour each way, the average American commuter's travel time, according to the Transportation Department, alone would take 7.5 hours a week. While attempting to work while commuting, many people would find it hard to be productive. For example, a study by North Carolina University found that people who commute long distances to work by car or public transport are more stressed.
A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the lack of a proper work-life balance is the second most significant reason for people quitting their jobs, with 45 percent of workers mentioning this as their primary reason. It makes sense; being stuck in traffic or having a long commute to work can be very stressful and lead to aggravation and low mood during the workday.
Many people prefer to work from an office in the early hours or late in the afternoon when traffic is low or take public transport or rideshare to work. It gives them time to prepare for the day or to wind down after a long commute. It also allows them to get ahead on work if they have a crisis that requires late evening or early morning attention.
Consider that many employees suffer from regular colds and flu during the year. Working in an office where there may be a pandemic, though not intended, can be debilitating. One study found that 75 percent of office workers were exposed to significant levels of contagions like the influenza virus. Another study found that up to 40 percent of office workers suffered from sickness-related absences due to common infections like the flu and illnesses like coughs. This can lead to costly employer sickness benefits and lost time for the employee.
A study by Warwick University found that each hour of commute time increases the risk of developing a joint infection like a cold or the flu by 24 percent. Another study by the University of Cambridge found that exposure to viruses and bacteria in transit is ten times higher than in office buildings. These risks and delays caused by traffic and long commutes add costs and frustrations for employees and employers.
Video conference systems like those from Microsoft, Google, Slack, etc., are making it easier and more affordable for companies to have online meetings. These systems offer high-quality video and audio with very low delays, so participants feel they are all in the same room. These systems also offer screen sharing, so presenters can show content and developers can demo apps. But most importantly, these systems make it easy for teams to collaborate and work seamlessly. Teams that use these systems enable their engineers to be more productive and innovative.
Having engineers in different locations isn't a drawback; it's a competitive advantage. By decentralizing the workforce, companies can lower their real-estate costs and curb the capacity problems that keep offices from scaling up efficiently. And by cutting commutes and creating more flexible work environments, companies can save money and improve the work-life balance of their employees. Engineering decentralization is a strategy to attract and retain talent, especially in technical fields.
The video conference technology mentioned above, along with other innovative technology, is making it easier and more desirable for people to work from different locations yet deliver outstanding results.
Although more research is needed, preliminary data suggest that remote engineers are more productive than their on-site counterparts. With the added benefits of increased flexibility and decreased distractions, it's no wonder that more and more companies are starting to allow their engineers to work remotely.