Daydreaming Man Working From Home

Employees working remotely are no more productive than they were when spending five days a week in the office and workers spending all their time at home are less productive than before the COVID War, according to several studies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Employees work fewer hours each week now than in 2019, the U.S. labor department’s annual American Time Use Survey discovered. Four years ago, 67.8 of workers were on the job on any given weekday; the new figure is 66.1 percent, the lowest since at least 2003, the department said.

Still, workers believe themselves to be 7.4 percent more productive working remotely, while their bosses estimate them to be turning out 3.5 percent less work, according to recent Stanford University studies.

That loss of productivity adds up: sixty-two percent of companies offer some form of remote work, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says. The U.S. Census Bureau has found that 39 percent of white-collar workers work remotely at least part-time and about 20 percent are remote all of the time.

Working remotely has boosted job satisfaction sharply from 2021 through 2022, which reached its highest level on record, according to The Conference Board’s worker survey, which began in 1987.

“This isn’t because workers find their jobs more fulfilling but because their jobs are consuming less of their life,” the WSJ noted.

Since the COVID War, workers are placing more emphasis on the parts of their lives not related to work, the WSJ said.

Needing to keep workers happy in a tight labor market, employers are responding: 70 percent of businesses now offer their employees paid time off, up from 63 percent in 2019, SHRM found; the number offering paid parental leave has jumped from 28 percent to 39.

A 2009 study called “A Century of Work and Leisure” found the number of hours American men ages 25 through 54 worked per week was 49.8 in 1920, but dropped to 41.4 in 1940 after Henry Ford proclaimed the 40-hour week for his employees, a standard codified in 1938’s Fair Labor Standards Act.

TREND FORECAST: To counter the lost productivity, more companies will invest heavily in technology, especially artificial intelligence, speeding the transformation of work. This will sharpen the need for a public discussion of ways to support workers whose hours, or entire jobs, are disappearing under the relentless advance of electronic and digital “employees.”

Also, while productivity may have slumped a bit, the fewer workers in an office building, the less rent the company will pay, which will also be a bottom-line benefit to corporations whose workers are still remote a few days a week.

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