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Remote workers' wellness and productivity go hand-in-hand

The past year has shown that remote work can be successful and productive at best. However, given the myriad of factors that influence remote workers’ wellness, such as work interfering with personal life or lack of support from the workplace, emphasis should be placed on how to build and maintain remote workers’ wellbeing and, by extension, support productivity. Recent research indicates that remote workers’ wellness and productivity go hand-in-hand.

Iina Savolainen
EDITOR, Post-doctoral Researcher of Social Science at University of Tampere

iina.savolainen@tuni.fi

Work-life wellness in remote work depends on several factors
A recent literature review by Como, Hambley, and Domene (2021) published in the Canadian Journal of Career Development assessed how the work-life wellness of remote workers had been impacted by the rapid transition to remote work due to Covid-19. Further, the authors were motivated to examine how work-life wellness could be supported and improved during and beyond unprecedented times like these. For the study, Como and colleagues reviewed and analyzed scholarly articles about remote work prior and during COVID-19.
The authors coin the term work-life wellness and describe it as a state of being that focuses on how an individual can promote wellness through a variety of means. It also refers to a state of wellbeing where an individual can feel well in general and is satisfied with the connection between work and non-work lives.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many workers shifted to remote work without adequate training or resources. According to the literature review, working remotely has been both rewarding and demanding for workers. The reviewed articles revealed that working remotely without having the proper readiness to remote work has been a challenging experience for many workers. In addition, working from home may have been a major stressor, particularly for parents with school-age children at home as they must manage childcare and their (online) education while working.

The study also identified that many remote workers experienced the inability to switch off from work, potentially leading to overwork and work interfering with personal life. On a more positive note, remote working has clear benefits: when compared to traditional workers, remote workers tended to have slightly higher job satisfaction and they experienced lower role stress. Moreover, companies who have shown increased interest in their workers and allocated human resources to regularly check-in with employees have witnessed higher motivation and productivity in their remote workers.
"Companies and employees have an imperative role in promoting workers' wellbeing, especially in remote work. By placing resources strategically in human resources and getting in the practice of checking-in with team members can provide help and support for employees, building a more encouraging and productive work environment. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that more training is needed to prepare for situations like this where a quick transitioning to remote work is required."
Iina Savolainen
Post-doctoral Researcher at University of Tampere

iina.savolainen@tuni.fi

Literature: Como, R., Hambley, L., & Domene, J. (2021). An exploration of work-life wellness and remote work during and beyond COVID-19. Canadian Journal of Career Development, 20(1), 46-56.

COVID-19 The impact of social distancing on the wellbeing of service employees.

What’s the effect of social distancing measures for the wellbeing of employees of service companies? Sven Tuzovic and Sertan Kabadayi decided to explore this question in their article ”The influence of social distancing on employee wellbeing: a conceptual framework and research agenda,” published in the Journal of Service Management.

According to Tuzovic and Kabadayi, organizational responses to social distancing measures can be divided into two types: 1) hibernation, where activities are scaled down or shut completely, and 2) continuity, where essential activities are maintained. The decision on the strategy can be voluntary or externally forced and depends largely on the industry. These choices are affected by the level of demand as well as levels of contact intensity and propensity of technology in service delivery.

Responses also vary on individual level and depend on three factors. The first is personal skills. Existing capabilities and ability to learn new things determine how well someone can cope with a crisis both financially and mentally. The second factor is support, which refers to both social support at the workplace and home as well as supporting resources such as technology. The third factor is personal factors, which include socio-demographic factors (age, gender, family situation, income level) as well as personality traits.

"Tucovic and Kabadayi underline that service research should put more effort into creating a new understanding of how to foster employee wellbeing in pandemic situations. This research should focus not only on a reactive viewpoint (coping with the ongoing situation) but also take a proactive view (solving future crises). Such knowledge could provide very useful in dealing with natural disasters and other crises."
Tuomo Eloranta
Researcher, at Aalto University

tuomo.eloranta@aalto.fi

Literature: Tuzovic, S. and Kabadayi, S. (2018), The influence of social distancing on employee wellbeing: a conceptual framework and research agenda, Journal of Service Management, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 145¬–160

As remote working pays off –the productivity effect

A recent study on working from home (WFH) by Lingfeng Bao, Tao Li, Xin Xia, Kaiyu Zhu, Hui Li, and Xiaohu Yang (2020) is a bold endeavor to study knowledge work productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The problem with productivity research is how to define productivity and how to isolate effects and feelings. Subjective productivity measurement on WFH has a positive impact on productivity in many cases yet holds a trade-off with wellbeing.

The paper discusses that WFH has both positive and negative impacts on developer productivity in terms of different metrics. WFH improves developer productivity as they feel very excited and have a lot of energy to do their work. Developers can focus on their own work and not be disturbed by colleagues. WFH might increase developers’ working time because there is no switch between workplace and home, and developers can work very early in the morning or very late in the evening. WFH gives developers a better work-life balance so that developers can work in better conditions.

WFH decreases developer productivity as there are many other issues to interrupt developers’ work and take a lot of their time. Some developers without self-discipline cannot focus on work when working from home. Although video conferencing tools or telephone are now very convenient for communication, the efficiency of collaboration still decreases due to working from home. There is no difference in developer productivity when working from home as there are no barriers for many developers to complete their daily tasks. There is no difference of project schedule between working from home and working onsite since developers can know the schedule using an online project schedule tool. Current video conferencing tools are very powerful; for example, they usually support screen sharing. So, there is a very slight difference between meeting in a physical meeting room of the company and online.

""We find that WFH has both positive and negative impacts on developer productivity in terms of different metrics, e.g., the number of builds/commits/code reviews. We also notice that working from home has different impacts on projects with different characteristics, including programming language, project type/age/size. For example, working from home has a negative impact on developer productivity for large projects. Additionally, we find that productivity varies for different developers. Based on these findings, we get some feedback from developers of Baidu [company] and understand some reasons why WFH has different impacts on developer productivity."
Jussi Okkonen
Associate Professor of Socio-technical Environments at Tampere University.

jussi.okkonen@tuni.fi

Literature: Bao, L., Li, T., Xia, X., Zhu, K., Li, H., & Yang, X. (2020). How does Working from Home Affect Developer Productivity?–A Case Study of Baidu During COVID-19 Pandemic. arXiv preprint. 

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