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Remote workers 18% less productive at home versus office: MIT, UCLA study

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August 8, 2023
By Talent Canada

Many companies are pondering hybrid work relationships as a post-COVID-19 solution. (Nuthawut/Adobe Stock)

Where do employees work best? That question has been bounced around heavily, among employers and workers alike, after many office workers started working from home during the pandemic.

A new study from researchers at MIT and UCLA has cast some light on the situation — it found that workers who cherish work-from-home routines are actually 27% less productive than when they come into the office. Further, it found that the productivity of workers randomly assigned to work remotely was 18% lower than when coming to the workplace.

The research looked at workers in the city of Chennai, India — chosen because of its high proportion of workers who do data entry. One of the reasons for the productivity differences could be the unique benefits an office setting provides, such as efficient production processes and faster learning opportunities.

But another reason could be that workers who are highly skilled, or have a higher work ethic, prefer the structured environment of coming in to work rather than working from home. “For example, high-ability workers might possess skills that complement office work, such as the ability to learn from their peers,” the authors said.


It’s not an open-and-shut case, though, as the data found that workers who prefer at-home arrangements are 12% faster and more accurate at data-entry tasks compared to their peers who prefer office-based work.

The research also noted that workers with home responsibilities, such as taking care of children, and those from poorer households might be at a disadvantage when it comes to where they work best.

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