April 20, 2020
Productivity Working from Home
Yesterday I got a mail saying that employees without experience working from home have a prodictivity of about 65 to 75 %. The conclusion of the author was that these employees urgently need education in self-management and time management.
Besides the fact that the author did not provide evidence where these figures come from there are some questions that arise. Is the productivity better when working in an office? How do you measure productivity? Can productivity exceed the level of 75 % at all?
Working as a Senior Solution and Enterprise Architect I had several tasks to analyse productivity of the employees, e.g. to calculate service costs usually referred to as contribution accounting. The following statements are based on employees' timesheets from companies in different industial sectors where working from home is possible but has not been made use of extensively at that time.
When analysing the productivity we used the billable time reported in the time sheets. Work was considered billable if the time could directly be invoiced from the customer or internally charged to the cost centre of the sponsor. Time considered as non-billable was
- managing e-mail like deleting irrelevant mails, filing and clean up of mailboxes,
- consumign actual information related to the work like reading relevant newsletters or bug reports on software being used,
- further education by reading specialist literature, attendance of classroom and online trainings or working through an e-learning program,
- general administrative tasks, e.g. filling out the timesheet.
The result of all these analysis was that the average level of productive work was about 75 % and there was liitle room for improvement. The more electronic communication and especially instant messaging spread out in the offices and expectation of customers and managers increasing that requests were answered immediately (24/7 reachability) even with 100 % presence at the office the productivity was sinking. Each interrupt by e-mail, phone or instant messaging will disrupt the work of the employees and it takes additional time to concentrate on the work again. As a result the figures mentioned are not significantly less than those we found when working in the office all the time.
Based on my experience with different customers less productivity is dependent on the ability of the sponsor or manager to truly delegate. Does delegation mean that the employee is fully responsible for fulfulling the task that has been given to her or him or does the manager regularly request status reports by mail, phone or instant messaging. That said there is more need to educate the leaders so they can cope with the feeling of loosing control with their employees not being around at the office.