12 Oct For Productivity And Career Growth The Office Is Best: Here’s Why According To Science
As the pandemic began, you were productive and effective. You were pulling yourself up by your bootstraps (as our grandparents used to say), taking a determined approach and making it work. But as the pandemic wears on, you may be hitting a wall. Your productivity is probably suffering, and your career may be taking a hit as well.
When you consider productivity and your career, you know it’s not just about working harder. It’s really about being intentional and reflecting on some key elements of your work, your team, and yourself to be your best. In addition, while you may love working in your home office—after all who doesn’t love wearing sweatpants, avoiding the commute and working side-by-side with their furry companion—it may be detracting from your productivity and your career growth.
There are ways you can be more productive and strategic about advancing your career—and showing up at your office may be one of them. When you’re deciding whether to go to your office, consider the nature of the work, your team and your own style—these will help you show up at the office for what matters most—and inform your choices based on great research.
Complexity and pressure. Brand new research from Maastricht University and Erasmus University found when people were doing more routine work, online efforts were satisfactory. However, for situations where there was more complexity, pressure and the need for speed, being in person was far superior. Part of the key to productivity is to be intentional about your work and know that the kind of work you’re doing will be impacted by your situation. When work is more complicated, intense or requires swift decision making, choose to be in person with teammates.
Your colleagues. Another key study highlighted in the Journal of Labor Economics found positive spillover in performance. The longitudinal study focused on 656 NBA players over a four-year period and found players had a strong influence on each other’s scoring—increasing overall game scores. This is similar to the sociological phenomenon called the Bandwagon Effect in which group energy and the emotion of the crowd inspires team members—resulting in an uptick in activity. Being in person can make you more productive as you obtain energy from others, and you can also positively influence your co-workers as well, through your presence and hard work. All of this is also very good for your career—your effectiveness will get you noticed.
Diversity. We can take a lesson from Darwin and embrace the reality that more diversity tends to make species thrive. University of Toronto research found when natural ecosystems had greater biodiversity, all plants tended to thrive to greater extents. Workplaces are like this as well. To be our best, we must be connected with new thinking, different ideas and alternatives to our own echo chambers. Often these connections are most easily made in the office because it facilitates the hallway conversations and the bump-into-you discussions at the coffee bar or in the work café.
Work dynamics. Pay attention to your own work preferences, but don’t assume they are static. It’s typical to over-generalize (“I prefer to work alone, therefore I seek time alone for all tasks.” or “I love people, so the more I’m with others in my work, the better.”) Actually, your effectiveness and productivity will have to do with an interplay of your tasks and your personality. Tune in to how you work best. For some work, you may indeed work better alone and for other work, you may work better with others. But this will likely be a mix and you will be your most productive—and build your most strategic relationships—when you pay attention to the interplay and plan your work accordingly.
Wellbeing. It’s a rare day when a study isn’t released about the decline in wellbeing and the rise in depression, anxiety and mental health issues based on social isolation during the pandemic. Likewise, studies demonstrate when people are depressed their productivity tends to decline and when their depression is treated, productivity improves. Coming into the office and spending time face-to-face with colleagues is good for your mental health and that, in turn, is has positive impacts on productivity.
Social capital. If you want to build relationships that will help you stretch, grow, learn, get things done and advance your career, you’ll be able to do this best face-to-face. You can build social capital virtually, but chances are good your relationships won’t be as tight, and trust may not be as strong. In-person contact has the unique ability to cement bonds because we develop greater familiarity with others, can read body language better and interpret micro expressions more accurately. Social capital can, in turn, help you be more productive because you’ll know how to get things done through the network.
Engagement. Research from the Association for Psychological Science found engagement, satisfaction and productivity are correlated and tend to reinforce each other. When we’re more engaged, we’re more satisfied and productive. When we’re more productive, we tend to be more engaged and satisfied, and so on. This is another reason to come into the office. It’s easier to dive in and engage fully when you’re in person. Without technology issues or the distractions of home, you can be together with colleagues as you work toward common goals—and be more productive doing so.
Working from home can be a wonderful thing, but it’s not a panacea and you may be able to tap into greater productivity and enhanced career growth by going to your office—at least part of the time. When you decide where you’ll work, consider the type of work you’ll be doing and whether it is complex or high-pressure. Also consider your colleagues and the energy you can give and get, as well as the diversity of ideas that will help you think better. Finally consider your own work preferences, wellbeing, social capital and engagement. All of these are helpful lenses through which to view your productivity and your career success—making intentional decisions about where you’ll work and how you can have the greatest impact.