Work from Home, Pay in Organisational Productivity

Aug 21 , 2021
By Asegid Getachew

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc all over the world for almost two years now. Apart from the loss of life and devastation to the economy, the pandemic has changed the way we go about our daily lives. One area that has remarkably been affected by the raging virus is how work is handled. Before the pandemic, employees and managers converged at the office for eight-plus hours to take care of the day-to-day activity of their organisations. However, during the pandemic, due to social distancing measures to curb the further spread of the virus, most firms started allowing their employees to consider work-from-home arrangements.

Although it is not a new phenomenon, its usage intensified during the pandemic. The application of the concept may not be the same across industries, but trends indicate that most firms are considering it a viable option. For example, the global social media giants Twitter and Facebook recently announced that they might consider allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely.

"The past few months have proven we can make that work," Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, said. "If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen."

Facebook founder and chief, Mark Zuckerberg, has the same view, expecting the shift to remote work to be lasting.

Studies also indicate that work-from-home is here to stay. A report published on Forbes headlined, "This Is the Future of Remote Work In 2021," indicates that "by 2025, an estimated 70pc of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month. While 2020 may be considered the year of remote work, it is just the beginning as we see the trend continuing in 2021."

Work-from-home arrangements may have been taken as a measure to curb further transmission of the virus. However, even after major economies have opened up and vaccinations have started being rolled out, it continues as the new normal. Organisations are considering it as an alternative because of one essential advantage it is offering. The additional investment for office space (rented or self-built) is almost zero under this option. Employees who want flexibility also enjoy this option, and they seem to be more satisfied with it.

Working from home, however, has its issues. The first downside of this option is the difficulty of knowing whether or not employees are engaged and committed while handling their regular duties. The office has some formality to it, including the dress codes and the formal communication among coworkers. All of this is totally absent when working from home. Work-from-home arrangements cannot also feasibly be implemented in all parts of the world because they require massive investment in technological infrastructure.

Nonetheless, the most critical downside happens to be its disregard for an organisational social system, which is crucial to productivity. The importance of the social aspect in an organisational system is a fact established by several empirical studies. The Hawthorne Experiment was one of the studies in this category.

The Hawthorne Experiment (Hawthrone refers to the company's name in which the experiment was conducted) started in the early 1920s. The purpose of the study was to investigate the factors that determine organisational productivity. The study was conducted in multiple stages and considered different factors, such as the intensity of lighting, the length of work hours, and the duration of breaks. Through repeated experiments, the study concluded that social factors (the informal groups in the workplace, the intensity of supervision, communication among workers) explain quite a vast proportion of the variation in productivity of organisations.

Organisations are not purely economic agents where workers are treated as pieces of machinery. Instead, they are "socio-technical systems" that recognise the emotion and interaction needs of employees. Working from home, however, may threaten this crucial system that organisations dearly require to remain competitive.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 21,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1112]

 is an assistant professor and research scholar at Andhra University. He can be reached at

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