The pandemic changed our professional lives a lot. For those who chose remote work voluntarily, a lockdown was not a shock. At the same time, millions of people were forced to work from home unexpectedly, and they felt lost without the familiar office environment and support from their colleagues — even if their previously safe role could turn into a risky job. For businesses, it was a great challenge to save their productivity and performance at the required level.
Surprisingly, for some roles, working from home appeared to be even more efficient! Despite the haste, with which companies and employees had to adapt to a new reality, they did. In this article, we describe the five roles that exhibited increased productivity in the new setup.
It’s a very controversial topic with polar opinions, so let’s start with some numbers.
PwC surveyed 133 executives and 1,200 employees in the United States. In June, 44% of employers and 28% of employees reported an increase in productivity after working remotely from home.
By December, these figures increased to 52% and 34% respectively.
Another survey conducted by FlexJobs, cites the reasons as follows:
- A more peaceful work environment
- Increased comfort at work
- Fewer interruptions
- Better concentration levels
- An absence of office politics.
Naturally, the numbers differ from June to December because, in the first half of the year, both employees and executives were shocked because of the dramatic changes in their lives and had to adapt to the new reality rapidly. By the end of the year, the new processes were configured in companies, and workers adapted to them — including everything from implementing a more lateral way of thinking, to more frequent brainstorming and innovative ideas.
Let’s take a look at the roles that have shown an increase in productivity when working from home.
It’s the most obvious group. Even before the pandemic, many IT companies supported remote work as a privilege or even created a remote-first environment for their employees.
And it’s true, professionals whose work is directly connected with computing technologies — programmers, designers, copy editors, digital marketers, customer service executives and many others — were better prepared for the transition.
Although live meetings and direct communication may help increase productivity, their direct responsibilities are digital. And by working from home, many of these people benefited from the decreased amount of interactions, a higher level of psychological comfort, and a possibility to manage their schedule better.
Consultants were another group who found it easier to adapt to remote work because they were already acquainted with the concept. Even before the pandemic, many consulting firms and professionals were managing their clients distributed globally. And there was no surprise that their productivity increased after they didn’t need to spend time on the road and eliminated office distractions.
Also, with the new setup, many companies paid more attention to digital automation and AI technologies to help the transition, which also turned into increased employee productivity and business efficiency. Plus, devising a performance improvement plan never hurt anyone!
Despite the apparent similarity with consultants, here, the transition was more challenging. Many schools and learning programs were not adapted to the remote, and many students didn’t know how to learn in this new setup.
The transition took some time. However, online classes eventually reached pre-pandemic standards and even exceeded them by the end of the year for certain groups, especially adults.
The phenomena of distant learning attracted many researchers. The University of Birmingham’s School of Education issued a report which highlighted their remote-teaching program. It concludes that remote learning is likely to occupy a prominent position in the educational landscape in the future.
Remote learning is not only restricted to formal education. Teachers are employing strategies like gamification and other innovative methods of eLearning.
Before the pandemic, it was hard to believe that even fitness, dancing and music classes can be held online — but they were. A shining example of this is a Virtual Classes/Open Campus model for teaching dance to the Marymount Manhattan College students.
Of course, these findings could be applied to any type of learning, ranging from learning how to go solar, to picking up a foreign language.
Here, we need to emphasize that there’s a large variety of management specializations. Obviously, those who have to be physically available at a site such as a construction field or a factory experienced hard times during the lockdowns. However, in those fields where personal presence is not required by definition, a new remote concept appeared to be a productive challenge.
It’s relatively easy to patch small and large imperfections in business processes being physically present in the office. You may come and explain, check, ask and control everything with your eyes. When an employee is not available in the office space, it becomes more challenging: you need to set up processes that help you ensure that every part of the work is done in the right quality and tempo. According to HBR, among the biggest challenges here were connected with trust and micromanagement.
Of course, the first several months were a shock.
Managers had to adapt and improve strategies inside their teams quickly, and they had to learn the absolute definition of lean processes and really center in on employee analytics. But for many companies, it appeared to be a growth experience in the end. Better task and expectations setting, task and time tracking, issue management — these and many other things will remain with them improved even after the lockdowns are over.
Most negotiations including financial transactions can take place online. Of course, many professionals who used to work in person experienced difficulties during the transition, which reflected in the decreased performance. But after, those who adapted to the new reality, demonstrated increased results in sales, whether selling business services or home decor pieces for those remodeling jobs that have become so popular these days. This was primarily thanks to automation tools, stellar business email, and saving the time they used to spend on the road.
Remote work is something that many employees could only dream of until recently, but it came to most of them uninvited. And when it happened, most realized that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
However, many roles where personal presence is not a must adapt to changes quickly and gained their benefits in productivity and KPIs, thanks to digital technologies, fewer interruptions and a better schedule.