Here at Zenefits, we’re constantly searching for the latest trends in modern work. Employee learning? Check. Unlimited PTO? Check. Open office floor plan? Check. Working remotely for an entire week? Not until today. In the name of delivering valuable content that will help you build better, happier teams, we wanted to give ourselves fully to remote work, and honestly measure how productive we were from the comforts of our homes.
Here’s how our remote work ‘experiment’ went: throughout our in-office week, our entire content team recorded each task we dedicated time to or completed during those five days. During the following week, we did the same thing, but at home…or wherever we were working that day [PSA new WFH acronyms include but are not limited to: WFL (laundromat), WFC (cafe), WFD (dog park) WFTJ (Trader Joe’s.)]
Our team loved the remote work life.
Here’s the breakdown: looking at the documentation of accomplishments, we determined that we completed about the same amount of work during both weeks. But remotely, my work felt a little bit less like…work.
With the ability to break up the day, a few minutes here and there allowed me to accomplish personal tasks (laundry, checking the mail, making lunch) as well as condense my periods of concentration. I found myself inadvertently falling into what pop culture has deemed the Pomodoro Technique, named such for the inventor’s tomato-shaped timer. This practice effectively segments a work day into short, 25-minute bursts of hyper-concentration, followed by 5-minute breaks. After four breaks, a longer break is allowed (15-30 minutes).
The point of the Pomodoro Technique is to limit multitasking, ultimately improving the quality of your work during those little bursts, referred to as “pomodoros.” But here’s the catch: those 25 minutes of concentration have to be entirely uninterrupted. No texts, no calls, no side convos with coworkers, no back-of-mind thoughts about what you’ll make for dinner. If it’s interrupted, that pomodoro is forcibly finished.
“But why is multitasking bad?” you audio-dictate to your phone while holding a coffee in the same hand, a dog leash in the other, your mom on the other line.
We’re glad you asked. A 2015 study conducted by UCL (University College of London) demonstrated the surprising detriments of multitasking. According to their research, multitasking leads to a decline in IQ scores– a similar decline to the one you’ll experience if you stay up all night. The reality is that the brain can’t really multitask, it just does a lot of things a little bit worse.
So– what did this mean for our remote week? Concentration was higher in the silence of my home, or the uninterrupted work stream done at a cafe without coworkers dropping by my desk.
Multitasking leads to a decline in IQ scores– a similar decline to the one you’ll experience if you stay up all night.
In many offices, this strict distraction-free period can be hard to attain– particularly at our (admittedly very fun and comfortable) open-floor office at Zenefits. Therefore, this felt like a unique perk to remote work, which resulted in my successful concentration. At the same time, those little breaks were also more productive. I could unload the dishwasher, water my plants, and tick other chores off my to-do list that would ordinarily have to wait until the evening.
Here’s what we excelled in during our week of remote work:
Just kidding– we missed more than that. Here’s our argument for (at least some) in-office work.
|Our advice: set your alarm for the same time as you would if you were heading to the office. If that gives you extra morning time, then start work early, make a big breakfast, go for a run, or use it for any other personal task! Giving a stringent structure to your day is the key to productivity.|
|Our advice: if possible, create a schedule of both in-person and remote work. Keep the larger projects for remote days and meetings for the office days.|
|Our advice: If you’re going to offer a remote work option to your employees, try to do it with some regularity. Once per week, every other week, or monthly are all good places to start.|
|Our advice: Implement a measurement of performance that is contingent on completed work rather than time spent in the office. This is a good practice regardless of remote work policies, as it will put more emphasis on work quality and limit micromanagement.|
We loved our week of remote work. Need we say it again?
However, being writers, our work lent itself particularly well to the WFH life. Not everyone’s work will transfer similarly. As always, we think the best place to start is surveying or asking your employees if this is a policy they’d be interested in. Then, examine each role to determine if (even partially) their work can be completed remotely.
If you notice an employee’s remote work quality slipping, don’t be afraid to sit down with him or her and talk about it. A remote work policy is a privilege, and can even be used as a reward or motivator– just make sure the rules are clear from the beginning.
Now it’s your turn. Follow these guidelines, and you will be on your way to supporting happy, balanced, and productive employees! And do it in your sweatpants, because who says the boss can’t get in on it as well?