Some groups have found productivity particularly difficult during the pandemic. Half of parents working from home with children under 18 and almost 40% of all remote workers aged 18 to 49 said it was difficult for them to do their jobs without a break. according to the Pew Research Center. Parents were also more likely than those without children to say they had difficulty meeting deadlines and completing projects on time while working from home.
It is possible that people who work from home – a relatively small percentage of workers compared to those who cannot do their work remotely – also have a misconception about the amount of work they are working. This is because people who work from home can use the wrong denominator to calculate how much of their time they spend working, said University of Chicago economist Syverson. It might make them feel like they are working less when they are really working the same amount. (This may not be the case for those who work remotely in jobs where their output can be more easily quantified, such as sales representatives.)
â€œI think there’s something about the fact that a lot of homeworkers are never kind of on the clock versus the clock,â€ he said. “Rather than dividing a workday by eight hours in the office, they divide the work day by the 16 hours they are awake.”
As employers continue to try to figure out how to engage their employees and lure them into empty offices, how to get the most out of their workforce has become a management puzzle with far-reaching economic implications. Already, some have announced plans to give employees more flexibility – a nod to the idea that total production and the way people feel are intertwined. Twitter said that employees able to do their jobs remotely could work from home forever.
Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab in New America and author of “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time,” said American culture has long believed that working longer meant working harder and being more. productive, despite the flaws in this way of thinking. She noted the idea that there is a â€œproductivity cliffâ€: workers are only productive for a certain number of hours, after which their productivity declines and they can start to make mistakes.
â€œWe’ve had this really mistaken connection between long work must mean hard work and productivity for a long time, and it never has been,â€ she said.
Productivity may also no longer be the ultimate goal it once was.
The pandemic has provoked a collective awareness, born of a constant and immediate fear of contagion and death, on cultural priorities. For many people, especially the percentage of workers who have remained employed and are able to work remotely, personal productivity – at least in the sense that that means producing the most at work, in the most hours – not necessarily even the goal.