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Working Remotely Is Bad for Your Productivity: Here’s Why
by Stephan Aarstol
May 3, 2023

It’s no secret that technology has made it easy to work from anywhere at any time during the day. The freedom it can provide an employee is nothing short of, well, sexy. Maybe not the whole working in pajamas thing, but you get my meaning.

Look at it this way: As an employer, it’s like you’re giving your employees the freedom to be their bosses.

But kids, pets, and that drawer that needs straightening can all be distractions for almost anyone working from home, which isn’t ideal for business leaders preaching productivity.

People who telecommute roughly two days a week aren’t as satisfied with their jobs as you’d think, and their productivity can take quite a hit because of it — especially with tasks involving collaboration.

Business leaders need to cultivate an office environment that’s conducive to efficiency. The friendlier executives make the workspace productive, the less appealing the remote will be.

Lacking That Connection

If working from home, what happens when you land on an idea? It’s not like you can bounce it off of someone. First, you have to shoot off an email. Then, if that email gets forwarded, you’ll be waiting around for days — by then, that notion could become even more half-baked.

Telecommuting means you no longer get those random-but-consistent innovations. In-person brainstorming is replaced by Skype, Google Hangouts, or some other instant messaging platform — and we all know how hit or miss those can be.

Our company, for example, bypassed the remote route and whittled our workday down to a five-hour window. In it, the entire team is in the office at the same time, and everyone is energized and productive from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The system encourages face-to-face interaction and allows employees to hold each other accountable for their responsibilities.

This isn’t to say someone can’t be successful working from home. All the recent productivity gains indicate that it’s possible, and it’s got many talented employees thinking, “Why am I spending eight hours a day in this office when I only work two or three?”

To keep people in the office, and make telecommuting obsolete, I suggest the following:

1. Shorten the workday. Though it may not keep the staff from checking their emails before heading off to bed, condensed workdays can inspire better focus and productivity while on the job. After all, work does expand to fill the time available.

Fewer working hours mean people no longer have the time to let their attention drift. Plus, not only does it instill a sense of urgency to get things done, but it also gives employees the same amount of free time they’d have if working from home.

Our five-hour workday has made employees happier, more productive, and more efficient. And seeing that side-by-side collaboration is imperative for inspiring innovation and establishing interoffice camaraderie.

2. Keep everyone on the field. I look at a business like a game of football. You need every member of your team on the field if you want to make any forward progress or not suffer from any busted coverage.

As soon as you go to flextime, you leave gaps in your offense and defense. Tom needs something from Julie, but she’s not in for another couple of hours. So, Tom shoots off a note and starts working on something else until he hears back.

If your entire team is on the field, Tom can get what he needs from Julie right away, and that one-minute task takes one minute instead of three to four hours to complete. When everyone is in place, momentum isn’t as likely to let down.

3. Never turn your brain off. Many businesses plan innovation. They gather up the troops, put them all in a room, and proclaim that it’s time to innovate. But all you’re doing is giving the floor to the loudest of mouths in your ranks and letting one mediocre idea dominate.

Innovation should be constant. Your team needs to engage in casual “idea sex” throughout the day. At our company, we might riff on an idea for a minute, then someone will carry it to someone else, and that person will develop the idea further — it’s informal and casual.

The thing is business moves forward not because of one huge idea, but because of a thousand small ones. Making ideation a natural process is something you’ve got to instill in your culture. Otherwise, those doors of yours will soon be locked and shuttered.

The traditional employer mindset still lingers: fewer hours mean fewer returns. But people already are working less and increasing their daily productivity, then using that extra time to surf Facebook and Amazon or play fantasy football. That efficiency won’t all of the sudden quickens by working from the comfort of your couch or dining room table.

Isn’t it more productive and efficient to ask employees to work fewer hours in the office than chain them to their desks to waste away part of the day? Someone will give them what they’re looking for — let it be you.

About the author
Stephan Aarstol
Stephan Aarstol is the author of the widely-acclaimed book, “The Five-Hour Workday: Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, and Find Happiness," garnering coverage from CNN, CNBC, “Fox & Friends,” The Huffington Post, and Forbes.
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