Post-COVID productivity bump to come from work from home

Watch the full interview with Professor Paula Brough (run time: 11 minutes).  

Productivity is likely to increase if managers and business owners continue to allow staff to work from home in a post lock down world, according to Professor Paula Brough from the School of Applied Psychology at Griffith University. 

Professor Brough was researching the impacts of working from home long before the lock down forced millions of Australians to swap their offices with home offices, lounge-rooms, and kitchen tables. 

“I think what has happened in the last couple of months will show employees and employers that if you want to work from home 2 or 3 days per week, and that’s okay with your employer, then productivity is likely to increase, and certainly staff commitment and staff retention follows hand-in-hand.

"The evidence is clear. We have been researching this area for several years. Where people who want to work from home or have flexible work hours, and that is enabled by their employer, then there is an increase in productivity. There is evidence from all around the world to show that," Professor Brough said.

Her research focuses on occupational health psychology, specifically employee mental health, well-being and performance outcomes. With the radical change in working conditions almost overnight, many employees and business owners are experiencing increased levels of stress. But there are practical measures we can put into place to help cope with the change in work environment. 

“There are reports of people’s health deteriorating. Their routine is not quite as healthy as it used to be and that is having an impact on increased levels of mental illness. We are getting a lot of reports of people accessing their workplace counsellors a lot more.

“One of the biggest issues for people has been the isolation. The social connection we normally get from the workplace, having coffee with someone, having lunch with someone, that not occurring has been quite a shock for some people,” Professor Brough said.

Practical advice to increase both mental wellbeing and productivity, elements Professor Brough says go hand-in-hand, includes:
  • Making sure you have plenty of virtual meetings with your colleagues. Having daily and weekly check-ins with people is important to obtain the social interaction with colleagues that you normally would in the office.
  • Make sure you have an appropriate space to work from.
  • Try and replicate your workday. Start at a similar time and, most importantly, stop at a similar time.
Although virtual meetings can’t replicate the same energy garnered from face-to-face interaction, there are methods we can apply to get more out of the often-stilted Zoom and Skype calls.

“Think about how you structure those meetings. Maybe it’s about having smaller meetings where two or three people Zoom together first to come up with ideas, then have a larger session where there are more of you. This way, your ideas are communicated and you each get a chance to say something.

“Because often in those large meetings, because of technical reasons, or the sheer amount of people, your contribution can often be lost,” Professor Brough said.

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