Do you have a sneaking suspicion that your remote workers are goofing off way too much? According to the findings of a recent survey, you can relax—remote workers tend to be more productive than they typically get credit for being. In fact, the survey found that 77 percent of workers reported that they’re more productive when working remotely.
The survey, dubbed the “Remote Collaborative Worker Survey,” was fielded by ConnectSolutions, a provider of unified communications as a service in San Francisco. I had the opportunity to discuss the survey findings with ConnectSolutions CEO Michael Fitzpatrick, and I mentioned to him that it seems only natural to me that remote workers would self-report being more productive when working remotely. So I asked him what led him to conclude that the 77 percent figure is a meaningful statistic.
“I think it’s a very important stat, because it contradicts the myth that remote workers aren’t working as hard as those who work on-premises,” Fitzpatrick said. “On top of being more productive with their time, nearly a quarter of remote workers are even willing to work longer hours, suggesting people who work remotely often feel a greater need to perform, which is something we're hearing from employers, as well.”
I asked Fitzpatrick what in the survey results he found most surprising, and he said his company was most surprised that only 36 percent of remote workers rely on video as a digital communication and collaboration tool.
“We see our customers relying increasingly on videoconferencing, because ultimately, successful remote work requires collaboration, and collaboration depends on relationships and frictionless communication,” he said. “We find workers who use video in their collaboration efforts tend to be more productive, as opposed to those desktop phone meetings we’ve all suffered through.”
When I asked him what the survey results told him that he didn’t already know, Fitzpatrick cited what he discovered about remote workers tending to take less time off when they’re sick.
“We figured a large percentage of workers would report greater productivity while working offsite, and that many of them would be accomplishing more in less time,” he said. “But it was quite something to discover 52 percent of remote workers are less likely to take time off when sick. It suggests that people may sometimes call in sick not because they can’t work, but because they don’t feel well enough to deal with the commute or working away from the comforts of home.”
On the question of what ways companies can and should monitor the productivity of their remote workers, Fitzpatrick stressed that an organization's reporting structure should be uniform across all types of workers to ensure everyone is being held to the same standard of productivity.
“You can't assume onsite workers are being productive simply because you see them at their computer,” he said. “You have to measure their output just as you would for your remote workforce.
The survey found that 28 percent of those surveyed use an enterprise unified communication tool, such as Microsoft Lync, which was rebranded as Microsoft Skype for Business last month. I asked Fitzpatrick where he sees this trend heading, and what that percentage will likely be two years from now. He said that while this survey had to do with remote workers, a separate report that focused on businesses may provide more insight.
“It found that in 2013, 42 percent of U.S. companies with 500-plus employees were conducting or planning to conduct a Microsoft Lync trial,” Fitzpatrick. “In 2014, this number grew to 72 percent of all U.S. companies. By 2016, we expect most businesses with 500-plus employees to have some kind of unified communications solution.”
Finally, I asked Fitzpatrick how the rebranding of Lync to Skype for Business will affect ConnectSolutions. He said it provides a good example of how his company is relied upon to explain the impact of technology as it evolves.
“Our job will be to work closely with our customers to ensure they have the latest versions, and that everything is fully integrated and battle-tested prior to releasing into the customer environment,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the new opportunities Skype for Business will bring.”
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.