Productivity Showdown: Remote Workers vs. Office Workers

Who really does more work: remote or in-office workers?

Bet you know someone who spends their working hours at home or hanging around in a coffee shop, don’t you? Most people think that remote workers are slackers who can’t handle the pressure or discipline of a “real” office job. In the past few years both Yahoo and IBM have brought many of their remote workers back to their offices because of this concept.

While there hasn’t been a single definitive study done on the question of who gets more work done, the evidence has been gradually piling up. Know that we’re biased at Virtira. After all, we’re a 100% telecommuting company.

But after a decade of hiring remote workers, we know that not everyone is a candidate for this type of work model. Chatty extroverts, unless they have a lot of other people around, will not be a good fit. People without a good remote office environment or a good work ethic are also not a good fit. TechRepublic has an excellent article on how to judge if one is likely to succeed as a telecommuter.

So, as you consider the following evidence for sending people home, remember to send the right people home.

  1. According to an survey, 65% of employers believe that employees are more productive when they work remotely. 96% of companies that use telecommuters say it doesn’t impede productivity. Only 8% of workers reported that they would prefer to be at the office to do important work.

Forbes Magazine reported that a Connect Solutions study found that 77% of remote workers get more done in fewer hours. Michael Fitzpatrick, CEO of Connect Solutions, says that “even the personal benefits workers experience can be viewed as employer benefits since workers tend to be happier, less stressed-out, and healthier, thereby bringing down the costs of turnover, absenteeism lower productivity and other issues”.

  1. Harvard Business Review wrote about C-Trip, a Chinese travel company, who gave their employees the option to work at home for nine months as an experiment. They found that those who worked remotely were averaging 13.5% more calls than those who continued to work in their offices. Those remote workers also quit their jobs at only half the rate, which was a surprising boost to C-Trip’s bottom-line.
  2. The number of people who find it hard to concentrate at their office desk has increased by 16% since 2008, according to a study noted on The number of employees who say they don’t have access to a quiet place to do focused work has risen by 13% over the same time period.
  3. SurePayroll did a survey which found that 86% of workers feel they hit their maximum productivity when they are working alone. The same survey found that 65% of staff believe a flexible and remote work schedule would increase their productivity.

Some more reasons why remote workers should outperform their office counterparts:

Fewer distractions and interruptions  Office workers are faced with near-constant distractions every day. Loud co-workers, the buzz of a busy, open-concept space and ringing telephones all contribute to an overabundance of noise in the modern office. Impromptu meetings (“It’ll just take 10 minutes, I promise!”) are usually the last thing anyone wants to deal with. Compare that chaos with a controlled personal home workspace tailored to suit everyone to a “T”. Where would you rather work?

Reduced stress from commuting  Remote workers don’t have to struggle with a prolonged trip to and from work each day. They can make their coffee, go for a jog, get the family ready for their day and then begin work on their own schedule. They feel no guilt about polluting the atmosphere or clogging up their area’s roads during rush hour. Being more relaxed and rested allows telecommuters to work more efficiently than office workers who feel like they’ve just completed the Indy 500.

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Minimal office politics – There’s no need for remote workers to navigate the murky, gossipy waters of office politics. They can stay focused on completing their tasks to the absolute best of their abilities without having to waste time and energy worrying about who is getting a cubicle by a window or who might be sitting beside the boss at lunch.

Less time off sick  Coming back to the office while still contagious is frowned upon at many businesses because management don’t want their staff to spread germs around, leading to more lost days. Telecommuters come back to work quicker and stronger and don’t call in sick as often. Going in to work just doesn’t feel as daunting when you’re already there!

Even though all the evidence points to remote workers being more productive than office workers, the wrong person in the wrong place will be a disaster. All those distractions, interruptions and politics that drive one group crazy will be completely missed by another group.

Contact us anytime. You can learn how we choose the right people and how we make remote work effortless for ourselves and our clients.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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