Say ‘buh-bye’ to WFH stigma: COVID-19 proves remote workers can still be productive

Woman with dog working

COVID-19 has been a turning point for remote workers across the globe, many of whom pre-pandemic have had to deal with the stigma that working from home actually means not working.

New research from Adobe, which surveyed more than 1,000 workers in the U.S., has found that working from home due to COVID-19 has, in fact, impacted work habits and productivity — but positively. 77% of survey takers said they are just as productive or more productive working from home, crediting flexible work schedules, no commute time, and fewer distractions.

“Overall, what we are seeing is that worker productivity remains high,” says Sunil Menon, senior director of product marketing at Adobe. “I think the fact that the transition to work from home has been so smooth for many workers is a testament to how well many organizations have demonstrated empathy through added work flexibility, by prioritizing their people, and arming them with the tools they need to get the job done when away from the office.”

Indeed, 82% of surveyed workers said their employers have the right technology in place to foster collaboration, and 63% reported they have at least as much access to their co-workers today as they did prior to the pandemic. That said, people do miss some of the perks of being in the office, such as in-person collaboration (25%), the ability to drop by a desk and chat with someone (23%), and the energy of a lot of people all in one space (11%).

Still, survey takers noted that videoconferencing doesn’t feel more productive than in-person meetings (67%), although many companies lean on it as a key aspect of fostering collaboration and teamwork in a work-from-home environment. In fact, 66% of workers reported videoconferencing fatigue due to the high volume of meetings they are experiencing remotely.

When asked which tools are used for sharing and reviewing files, Microsoft Office 365 was the most popular, followed by Google Drive and Adobe Acrobat, which tied for second place. Ninety percent of workers send files as email attachments, even though 88% find file attachments less productive and hard to manage. Additionally, at least half of documents are being signed digitally, particularly among younger employees.

“We’ve done quite a bit of research in the past around the economic impact of e-signatures, and they not only help businesses increase ROI, but also enable companies to save in printing and shipping costs, while also allowing employees to focus on more impactful parts of the job,” says Menon.

Interestingly, despite being in the privacy of their own homes, the study’s respondents said they are spending less time checking and opening personal email accounts. Conversely, they are checking their work email accounts for three-plus hours per day. The younger Millennial and Gen Z generations are also checking their work email while still in bed.

While email and phone still dominate work communication, instant messaging, file sharing, enterprise social networks, and social media are also more popular, especially among Millennial workers, the study found.

“Workers have found that remote work has changed how they communicate — with video chatting, email, and instant messaging being used more than ever before,” Menon says. “This is the new normal, and these habits we are all forming right now in a work-from-home environment won’t just disappear after COVID-19 dissipates. I believe we will see a lot of companies making work-from-home a permanent option for some employees even when offices open up. This will require rethinking employee experience and the tools that are needed for keeping people productive, no matter where they are working.”