Leaders who move past this myth will improve their distributed team management and boost employee morale — and team productivity.
Hybrid and remote work are here to stay. Over the past three years, we’ve seen that employees thrive when they’re trusted to choose their own work environment.
Since each employee has different life circumstances, work styles, and preferences, no blanket back-to-office policy is going to work for everyone. Different employees work better in different environments. That’s why it’s time to rethink any lingering hesitations around remote team management: just because you rarely see your direct report in person, it doesn’t mean they’re not getting their work done. We’re way past wondering “Is remote work effective?” We know it is.
Ultimately, forcing an employee back to the office who doesn’t want to be there will yield a resentful, less motivated, and distracted employee. Letting people choose where to work is what powers productivity.
In order to build supportive, sustainable work environments and for hybrid and remote work to succeed, we’ve got a lot of preconceived notions to undo.
1 in 2 workers (49%) feel managers view those in the office as harder-working and more trustworthy than their remote coworkers. And 60% of managers are still concerned that workers are less productive when working remotely. That means that trust isn’t flowing as it should — in both directions. It’s up to managers to learn, and then communicate, that it doesn’t matter where an employee chooses to work. They just have to get their work done.
We’ll get into four reasons why presence does not equal productivity and how to overcome the mental hurdle of this myth. Your team, and your own productivity, will thank you.
We’ve spent years studying how remote work affects work output, employee satisfaction, and retention. We’ve got the work-from-home productivity statistics that will show you there’s no reason to force all employees back to the office.
1. 62% of workers feel more productive when working remotely.
62% of workers feel more productive when they work from home. They’ve cut the commute and have set up a comfortable work environment where they can focus, collaborate, or analyze.
Just 11% of employees feel less productive at home.
And for those employees who do a little bit of both — hybrid workers — 67% say they feel more productive when working from home compared to the office. Hybrid work can be the best of both worlds for many types of employees, balancing connection with productivity.
2. Working from the office is great for the interpersonal side of work — but when it comes to productivity, it comes down to the individual.
One of the biggest reasons why employees want to come back to the office, at least some of the time, is to connect with colleagues after an isolating few years. Some employees will want to come to the office for a team brainstorm, but others will come in to take advantage of your office’s private areas for deep work. Some will feel they don’t get much done at the office because they spend all day chatting with colleagues, but others will thrive on the energy of the office and feel way more productive than at home.
Monitoring your employees in the office is an ineffective, surface-level way to see how well they’re working. Providing them with tangible goals, clear expectations, and regular scheduled check-ins will give you a much more accurate picture of their progress and growth. But this close support can transition to the digital world. Consider a daily check-in with direct reports or a weekly huddle. Think about new ways that you can engage employees that don’t rely on happenstance meetings in the office.
Letting people choose their work environments is what leads to better productivity. If you give your employees the trust to choose where to work, they can adjust their work location based on the needs, mood, and types of tasks set for each day.
3. Millennials and Gen Z generally feel more productive at home, while Boomers and Gen X feel more productive at the office.
As mentioned above, everyone is different, so blanket policies forcing people back to office don’t work. Your Boomer and Gen X employees may be okay with it, as they’ve spent the vast majority of their working lives in offices. But younger employees are more likely to miss the autonomy and trust of choosing their own work environment and will have a harder time justifying the financial costs of commuting. In fact, hybrid employees spend $19.11 more each day that they go to the office compared to when they work from home, which adds up.
Across all employees surveyed, 66% say they would start looking for another job if the ability to work remotely was taken away. That’s why letting employees choose their own work location, and getting past the idea that you need to watch over employees at all times as they work, will help you retain an engaged team.
4. Diversity is improved by letting workers choose where they want to.
One of the biggest ways remote work benefits employers is that remote work policies encourage diversity. People from all walks of life, with varied life circumstances, can greatly benefit from the ability to work at home.
At Meta, hires for remote roles were substantially more likely to be Black, Hispanic, Alaskan Native, Native American, people with disabilities, veterans, and women, said Meta Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams.
Here are five actionable ways that leadership can unlearn the presence = productivity myth and support successful, equitable hybrid work.
1. Let employees choose their work location
We’ve said it in every way, shape, and form: leave it to your employees to choose where they work while supporting them with policies, amenities, and workspaces to make it possible. When provided with a comfortable and trusting work environment, employees will be encouraged to consistently do their best work.
2. Build a standardized promotion path policy
In order to dispel the idea that in-person employees are valued more — and promoted more quickly — than remote or hybrid employees, also known as “proximity bias,” create a policy that outlines the path to promotion for every level of employee, regardless of their work location. Train your managers to run through this policy and regularly check in on individual role expectations so that all employees know exactly how they can improve and how they can get promoted.
3. Communicate expectations and responsibilities often and invest in next-level project management
In tandem with your clear and well-communicated promotion policy, managers need to be trained to build clear job descriptions and check in on employees’ progress and growth areas. This is true both for remote managers as well as in-office managers with even one remote or hybrid direct report.
If every employee knows exactly what they need to get done each day, each week, and each month, there’s really no reason to require in-person work. As long as they get their work done, wherever it is that they choose to do it, any employee can thrive and contribute to the company goals.
Holding weekly 1:1 meetings is the best way for managers to keep tabs on their direct reports and monitor how they’re doing. There’s simply no need to constantly surveil employees, whether it’s in the office or with screen monitoring technology. The strongest incentive to work hard comes from being trusted and supported by a company and a manager — micromanaging and surveillance send the wrong message.
4. Create a supportive and engaging work environment for both remote and in-person employees
When running a hybrid workplace, with some employees telecommuting, others in the office full-time, and others coming in a few days a week, it’s important to build opportunities for connection and support for every employee. Laid-back social meetings, plus activities like kickoffs, activities and classes, and wellness benefits are all great employee morale boosters — and happy employees are productive employees.
Learn more about building a supportive and engaging culture for all workers with 10 team-building activities for remote, hybrid, and in-office teams.
5. Use the best immersive hybrid meeting technology to ensure everyone is always heard
Outdated meeting technology is one of the biggest challenges faced by hybrid teams. Poor connection, lagging video, audio interruptions, and a less-than-ideal interface adds disruptions and reduces productivity of meetings. Typical hybrid meeting setups also mean that those who are in the office may have their ideas prioritized, because they can be better seen and heard by everyone in the meeting.
And when we asked employees about benefits they want their company to offer, 96% of respondents said that the most important thing is good technology, and 92% said a flexible work location. These benefits only ranked behind compensation and health insurance, meaning hybrid work is now one of the top employee expectations for the workplace.
That’s why investing in hardware that’s purpose-built to run great hybrid meetings is better for the equity of your meetings and helps you create an environment where all your employees feel valued.
Learn more about how Owl Labs tech helps with leading hybrid teams and increasing workplace productivity: Check out our guide on Effective Hybrid + Remote Leadership Strategies.