Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Career

Managers Are More Positive About Hybrid Work Productivity

How managers' attitudes toward hybrid work are shifting.

Key points

  • Managers' positive outlook on hybrid work productivity has increased due to the pandemic.
  • Maximizing hybrid work productivity requires optimizing the mix of employee activities and minimizing commuting time.
  • A large majority of the work that most employees do is more effectively done from home, including focused tasks and virtual meetings.
  • Longer commute times lead to lower job satisfaction, poor mental health, and decreased productivity.
MART PRODUCTION/Pexels
MART PRODUCTION/Pexels

A new study from the University of Birmingham has found that managers developed a more positive outlook on the benefits of hybrid work productivity since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research surveyed 597 managers and found that 51.8 percent of them agreed that working from home improves employee concentration, 59.5 percent agreed that it increases productivity, and 62.8 percent agreed that it increases motivation. Furthermore, an even larger number of managers, 76.5 percent believe that flexible working generally increases productivity. Importantly, the study also found that line managers were more likely to see flexible working as a performance-enhancing tool (71.2 percent) than senior management (65.6 percent). This highlights the importance of educating senior management on the benefits of flexible working and the positive impact it can have on employee performance.

Now, managers need to learn how to maximize hybrid work productivity by determining what employees can most productively work on at home, and what to focus on when they come to the office. Given that about three-quarters of all US companies are in the process of adopting a hybrid work model, optimizing this mix of employee activities is critical both for the success of individual companies, and the US economy as a whole. What are the best practices in determining what tasks hybrid workers should work on from home?

Some might say it’s simple: Just let the rank-and-file employees and their immediate supervisors figure it out for themselves. However, employees may often fail to maximize their productivity.

It’s not because they’re lazy or deliberately inefficient: it’s just that they never learned how to do hybrid work effectively, and don’t know what they don't know. Without guidance and professional development in this area, lower-level supervisors and middle managers in particular end up shoehorning traditional office-centric methods of working into hybrid settings. The result is lower productivity, engagement, and morale, harming both company bottom lines and employee well-being and career success.

The Worst Part of Coming to the Office

One key filter to determine what to do where: to maximize productivity, hybrid work models have to minimize commuting time for employees. Coming to the office needs to be for a specific purpose that outweighs the significant costs—in time, money, and stress— involved in the commute.

A survey by Hubble asking what respondents liked about working from home showed that 79 percent of respondents said there is no commute, making it the most popular response by far. According to a recent survey by Zebra, 35 percent of Americans would be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for a shorter commute. Of those who would take a pay cut, 89 percent would sacrifice up to 20 percent of their salary.

Americans waste a lot of time commuting. The US Census data from 2019 shows that about 10 percent of Americans commuted over an hour each way, mainly those living in dense urban areas. On average, Americans commute a half hour each way.

Moreover, commuting to work costs a lot of money. According to a Flexjobs analysis, employees can save up to $12,000 per year by working full-time remotely. This includes savings on transportation expenses like gas, car maintenance, and parking, as well as the cost of buying professional clothing and eating out at expensive restaurants. While there may be some additional costs associated with working from home, such as increased utility bills and the cost of cooking at home, these expenses are typically much smaller than the costs of commuting to an office.

Peer-reviewed research found that longer commute times correlate with lower job satisfaction, increased strain, and poorer mental health. And happy workers are productive workers, as found by economists at the University of Warwick. They did experiments to discover that a sense of happiness made people around 12 percent more productive. Similarly, a study run by Oxford University's Saïd Business School at BT, a British telecommunications firm, found very similar results: happy workers were 13 percent more productive.

In addition to the boost in productivity coming from happier workers who avoid a commute, those working from home actually work more hours. Chicago University research discovered that employees working from home devote about a third of the time saved from not commuting to their primary jobs.

What Kind of Work Should Hybrid Employees Do at Home to Boost Hybrid Work Productivity?

In fact, the large majority of the work that most employees do is more effectively done from home anyway, even if the commute wasn’t an issue. For instance, much of the work done by individual employees involves focused tasks that they do by themselves. Research shows that workers are more focused when working at home, without the distractions of the office.

Another category of work that takes up a great deal of time for employees is asynchronous collaboration and communication. That might involve sending emails, editing a Google Doc or Mural board, or doing virtual asynchronous brainstorming. A McKinsey analysis shows that only email takes up an average of 28 percent of work time for knowledge workers. There’s no reason to commute to the office just to read and send emails.

A third major activity best done from home is the virtual meeting. In a survey by the collaboration software company Slack, employees report spending two hours each day in meetings. Stuart Templeton, the head of Slack in the UK, said that employers risked turning their offices into “productivity killers” by having their staff come in just to do video calls: according to him, “making a two-hour commute to sit on video calls is a terrible use of the office.”

Of course, for those workers who don’t have a comfortable and quiet home office, it’s important for employers to provide an alternative workplace for these three tasks, either in an employer-owned office or a coworking space. Still, the large majority of employees prefer to work on such tasks at home.

Conclusion

The commute undermines employee happiness, making them less productive. Moreover, employees willingly spend a substantial part of the time saved from the commute by working on their primary job. Thus, to maximize hybrid employee productivity, any office-based activities must outweigh the substantial burden of commuting. In addition, the large majority of activities that hybrid employees do are better done at home anyway, such as focused individual tasks, asynchronous communication, and video meetings. That means most hybrid employees should spend the substantial majority of their time working remotely.

References

Tsipursky, G. (2021). Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. Columbus, OH: Intentional Insights Press.

Yarritu, Ion, Helena Matute, and Miguel A. Vadillo. "Illusion of control: the role of personal involvement." Experimental psychology 61.1 (2014): 38.

Bloom, Nicholas, et al. "Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 130.1 (2015): 165-218.

Aksoy, Cevat Giray, et al. Working from home around the world. No. w30446. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2022.

Bloom, Nicholas, Ruobing Han, and James Liang. How hybrid working from home works out. No. w30292. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2022.

Engelsberger, Aurelia, et al. "Human resources management and open innovation: the role of open innovation mindset." Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources 60.1 (2022): 194-215.

advertisement
More from Gleb Tsipursky Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today