Remote vs. In-Office Workers: Which Employee Is Actually Better?

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Working from home seems to be all the rage right now. But can employees stay engaged and productive? Here are key metrics to consider.

Larry Page’s seat in the Google One jet is bigger than the office space of most Googlites. Yet at the Googleplex, he works among the employees to innovate and collaborate in one of the world’s most innovative companies.

More companies are calling their workers back to the office to gain this innovation edge. But not all have created a place like the Googleplex where employees prefer to come to work.

Related Article: Work-Life Balance: Ways Your Real Life Impacts Business

Working in the Office 

At office central, where three-quarters of workers work in open offices, companies benefitting from lower office overhead costs and higher productivity are re-evaluating the work-at-home model.

Of the over 120 million U.S. office workers, less than 3% work at home, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Work redesign is making the office a more productive and cost-effective place and a more engaging environment for employees. 

  • Open-office designs unencumbered by walls, cubicles, and even desks are increasing productivity.
  • Worker density increases are lowering the cost per head of office workers.
  • Workplaces are more innovative. “People are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together,” says Yahoo chief Marissa Meyer who recently called Yahoo’s workers back to the office to contribute to the “energy and buzz.”
  • Employees can be fully engaged in offices, now recognized as a key job performance enhancer.
  • A workplace culture developed around common goals and values is easier to create in an office.
  • Employees prefer and miss face-to-face meetings, which are reported to produce a threefold increase in ideas, leads and referrals. 
  • All the things you did not like about the office, though, are multiplied.
  • The open office is loud, distracting, and void of privacy. Other workers are too close for comfort.
  • The comfort of home such as family photos, your favorite coffee cup and plastic toy figures are being banned from workspaces.
  • When the creative juices are needed, you cannot play your music on surround sound stereo or meditate in the middle of the floor (without being stepped on).

Working at Home

Despite the fact that most employees lack the discipline and skills required (e.g., self-motivation, organization) to work at home, 34% want the flexibility of working at home full time. About 25 million U.S. workers worked at home at least one day a month in 2014. Sixty-seven percent of American workers surveyed told uSamp they feel more productive working at home. Under certain circumstances, employers and employees agree, the home office is more productive.

  • Working at home inspires more creativity in creative positions such as software coders and graphic designers, who do not work well in noisy environments with many work interruptions.
  • Global employee sourcing provides the opportunity to hire the rock star software developer in Australia and fill skill shortage gaps.
  • In jobs requiring travel and mostly external meetings, workers operate more efficiently and cost-effectively in a home office in their assigned region or territory. 
  • Perks such as home office tax deductions and savings on childcare boost the overall remuneration of home office workers.
  • A new streamlined tax deduction up to $1500 makes it easier than ever to file a claim for home office expenses.

Related Article: How to Design a Home Workspace for the New Year

Remote vs Office Workers: 6 Key Decision Metrics

Which work environment is best for your company? These key metrics can help you decide where your workforce will be the most productive.

Real Estate Cost Per Employee: The easiest way to increase workspace efficiency is to use less space per employee. This also lowers the environmental footprint per employee.

Workspace Efficiency: New work design concepts such as hoteling and hot desking are optimizing the use of office space. 

Employee Productivity: Measured by dividing revenue by the number of employees. Who is getting more done, the office or remote workers?

Innovation: Simple measures of innovation are how many ideas an employee produces, introduces and/or evaluates; and the number of products, services and patents produced.

Level of Interaction and Communication: Communication and social media analytics make it easy to track clicks, opens and other communication activity across job function, departments, regions and countries.

Employee Engagement and Motivation: Most companies administer employee engagement surveys. Analyze who is more engaged remote vs office workers across job functions, performance levels and other pertinent metrics, and why. 

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