Remote work has indisputable advantages, namely the freedom to choose where to work, when to work and the possibility of spending more time with loved ones. But, with all this freedom, are employees working remotely as productive as those in the office? Good news for remote work fans: a Texas A&M study recently revealed that the answer to this question is a resounding yes. In fact, they found that employee and business resilience can be improved with the ability for employees to work remotely during events that result in workplace displacement. In the case of the study, conducted in 2017, that cause was Hurricane Harvey. Since 2020, COVID-19 and social distancing measures have driven travel and, more recently, debates about the pros and cons of remote working.
The study was conducted by a research team (Kamrie Sarnosky, DrPH, Mark Benden, PhD, Garrett Sansom, DrPH, Leslie Cizmas, PhD, and Annette Regan, PhD) from the Texas A&M School of Public Health. To collect the data, they worked with a major oil and gas company in Houston, analyzing ergonomic software data from 264 of their employees. During the study period, the company was forced to close its offices due to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. This has led to employees having no choice but to work remotely for up to seven months, for some.
The study, which was published in iOS press in February 2022, reviewed employee technology data before, during and after the hurricane. Data from the “before” period, from January to August 2017, established the baseline of activity; the “during” data was collected during the complete movement of the storm, between August and September 2017; and “after” data was collected during the gradual return to office period (September 2017-March 2018) and, finally, the full return to office (April-December 2018).
What they found strongly suggests that remote work does not negatively impact workplace productivity. Although total computer use declined during the hurricane in immediate response to the displacement, employee hours increased steadily over time and their work behaviors quickly returned to pre-hurricane levels and d before moving. As employers across the country debate the practicality and effectiveness of remote and hybrid schedules, this analysis provides important insights into the reality of remote workers and their performance.
Since the study is part of a larger effort by the university’s Center for Ergonomics to study the health of information workers, the researchers also tracked the ergonomic environment in employees’ home offices. , with the aim of understanding and resolving employee health issues remotely. These issues included stress, depression, and substance abuse, as well as smaller issues that compound to create health issues over time, such as poor posture and hours of computer work that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
“Research indicates that if you work in a certain way at a certain pace for a certain duration, you are more likely to be injured from that work,” said Benden, one of the researchers. said. “But if you work a little less or a little less often or split the duration […] then you are less likely to develop a problem doing your office work. To test this, they recommended periodic breaks to employees and found, again, that positive exercise improved both the quality and outcome of their work.
With the study being published at such a relevant time, the researchers stress the importance of applied research, especially where it could potentially improve the health and well-being of remote workers. Says Benden, “We have to learn this about people, we have to teach people about it, and then we have to help people actually do it.”
h/t: [Texas A&M Today]
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