Study: Working from home means more time on computers, but workers aren’t more productive

A new Aternity study also shows that remote work in Europe has declined, as stay-at-home orders have relaxed.

Remote employee productivity during the coronavirus pandemic was the topic of a new study by enterprise software company Aternity, “The Remote Work Productivity Tracker; Global Trends in Remote Work Productivity.” Specifically, Aternity sought to find out what kind of effect application performance has on remote employee productivity. 

Significant findings of the three-volume study include: As stay-at-home restrictions in Europe have eased, remote work has declined; despite spending an additional three hours on their computers, employee productivity has decreased; many are starting later in the day and using apps to connect with colleagues, and the highest amount of remote work is in North America.

“The study puts some hard evidential data around what we have all been thinking, that the last two months have mainly been staring at a computer screen, without even an occasional face-to-face meeting to give the eyes a rest,” said Mark Robinson, global lead, data science innovation at Aternity. 

“Most of the non-productive hours of the day, like commuting to and from the office, sociable lunch breaks, chats in the corridor, have been replaced by even more screen time, such as on-line meetings, so we all feel like we are working harder,” Robinson said. “The study shows that the extra ‘work’ is mainly on-line collaboration, the kind that would have been done without a computer when in the office, so, although the overall business output has been maintained, the productivity rate, measured as output per hours in front of a computer, has dropped.”

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Other questions Aternity asked of respondents:

  • Are remote employees working during more hours of the day?
  • If so, is it because expectations for applications were not met?
  • What kind of IT investment would equate the digital experience of employees at home and at the office?
  • How long will it take for the workplace to return to pre-pandemic “normal?”

North America continues to have the highest share of WFH employees, with levels steady at about 85%. In the first two weeks of May, telecommuting in Europe has declined to 76%.

“Employees in knowledge-intensive industries, like finance and insurance, can more easily make the shift to remote work than employees in more ‘hands-on’ industries like manufacturing, mining, and hospitality,” said Mike Marks, head of product marketing, Aternity. He added, “According to World Bank data, North America has among the highest percentage of knowledge workers per capita.”

Robinson added, “The study answers the questions of who, what, where, when and how WFH has been adopted. The question of ‘why’ is much harder to give a definitive answer to as there are so many different influences. For example, our study shows Skype was used far more than Teams and Zoom, but why would that be when Zoom dominates the consumer world? One possible answer is ‘tech debt,’ where enterprises that made a big investment in Skype for Business continued to use it, whereas those who did not have a current standard collaboration tool, followed the new trend of Zoom.”
 
SEE: Zoom vs Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco WebEx and Skype: Choosing the right video-conferencing apps for you (TechRepublic)
 
Because of the necessity to adapt work practices to WFH settings, home use of heavy-duty apps,

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