Is Remote Work Killing Technologists’ Productivity?

Within many companies, remote work—or at least some kind of flexible work—is regarded as the future. Executives are openly considering whether they need to keep spending money on office space, while technologists are debating whether they need to keep living close to their company headquarters. At this crucial juncture, it’s worth studying whether technologists feel working from home makes them more productive—or less.

Unfortunately, technologists at some of the nation’s largest tech companies feel like remote work is making their productivity decline. That data comes from Blind, which anonymously surveys technologists on a regular basis. At some tech giants, such as Facebook and Microsoft, more than half of those surveyed think that remote work is productivity-killing. Here’s the full breakdown: 

Overall, some 48 percent of respondents said their productivity had decreased. Square topped that particular list, with 73 percent claiming decreased productivity. Meanwhile, 70 percent of those at Twitter said that remote work had increased their productivity—good thing the company announced that it plans to go to a fully remote model

Some caveats here: The sample size at some companies was rather small (under a dozen at a few, such as Tesla). That being said, the relative productivity of those working from home has been a general concern within the tech industry since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some studies have suggested that working from a home office kills productivity, while others have come to the opposite conclusion

Actual productivity while working from home, as you might expect, ultimately comes down to the individual. The key, as with so many things, is frequent communication with your team members and manager about deadlines and what needs to get done. If you feel overwhelmed with work, you and your manager need to sit down and discuss workloads and priorities. If you think your productivity is slipping because your team isn’t efficiently dealing with bottlenecks, that’s worth a meeting.

Burnout also has a huge negative impact on productivity. To avoid it, you should think about setting a firm schedule (including times when you can and can’t be reached by colleagues), defining your workloads and deliverables well in advance of deadlines, and getting enough sleep and exercise.

Despite the inevitable challenges that arise with remote work, survey data suggests that a significant percentage of technologists enjoy it. In sentiment surveys conducted by Dice over the summer, a small but noticeable number of them even said they’d be willing to take a pay cut to work remotely rather than commuting into an office every day. Whatever your feelings about it, it’s clear that remote and flexible work are here to stay. 

5 Responses to “Is Remote Work Killing Technologists’ Productivity?”

  1. Annie Wallace

    I’m the only person I know wherein productivity REALLY escalated when I began working remotely as a Sr. Tech Leader (Director & TPM-dual Roles), but then I have a schizoid personality (work better alone than in the midst of other people). I’ve been working from home since late 2006, more fully since 2007. I have a large master bedroom so I keep my electronics in one corner and my amazing temperpic adjustable bed in the other corner. That way I can work till 1:30 am then go to bed, wake up 4 hrs later and get back to work (except for when I go into the living room where I keep my Total Gym machine and punching bag (hey I live alone and my friends, not just my team members, are mostly located offshore (around the world).
    As a result, I have two ‘power suits’, 30 T-shirts, 10 shorts & 4 jeans. Since I also test products for mfrs as a sideline, I’ve been wearing a pair of PJs every day (23 hrs a day except when I shower) for ten days now, all while sitting in front of my laptop or while working out on the Total Gym machine. (Other than a little ‘pilling’, the PJs are holding up just fine, though beginning to smell a little sweaty.) I’m 72+ years old too, so there goes the BS that people of my age are “elderly” or that there is ‘age discrimination’ when it comes to tech jobs. 🙂
    BTW, “Annie Wallace” is not my real name, it is the name of my main protagonist in the second book of my current fiction series: Tobias: Messenger of God. (I am a Virgo and thus able to manage my time (a man-made construct) better than most. As to my kids, I get along fine with them, my oldest grandchild is sleeping in my second bedroom right now (as he is a man, thus not able to manage his time as well as grannie and needing more sleep b/c he spends the time he’s not using to finish his doctorate in math (following in the footsteps of grannie) partying b/c he’s a good looking man, albeit a bit of a slut.

  2. Robert Mader

    How are we defining productivity? Is it how much are you doing per hour? How quickly and efficiently are you getting your work done?

    Proficiency should be completely about how effective you are at completing your work. Not how much do you do in a day.

  3. Ed Weber

    A self-selected survey of people who historically have had the attitude of treating workers like kindergarteners who must be seen to be in their seats to be ‘behaving’ properly? What shocking results.

    IT work is fully quantifiable. It’s a simple binary – is the same amount of work being done remotely as when people were sitting in their assigned chairs? Asking how people “felt” about productivity is worse than useless as a data source.