Remote Working vs. the Office — Which is Better?

We explore the future of remote work, and hear about the latest research on which settings and models are best.

Listen 49:20
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Over the past few years, remote working has transformed millions of people’s lives — giving them more time for family, more control over their schedules, and a better work-life balance. But now, a growing number of companies — including tech giants like Google and Meta — are making their employees return to the office, citing concerns about productivity, innovation, creativity, and employee engagement. But how does working in the office measure up when compared to working remotely?

On this episode, we explore the future of remote work, and hear about the latest research on which settings and models are best. When does it pay off to bring workers back, and when is working remotely more fruitful? We hear stories about how digital nomads are reshaping what work looks like — and the places they live; how working from home affects productivity; and how workplace psychologists say office design could lure employees back to the workplace.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • In 2012, the U.S. Patent Office launched an experiment — allowing thousands of their employees to work from home. The goal was to attract new talent and bump productivity. But did it work? We talk with Raj Choudhury, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, about his research on how this, and other, work-from-anywhere experiments, affected productivity.
  • Economist Jose Maria Barrero, co-founder of the Working from Home Research Project, adds nuance to the picture with his research on the effects of the pandemic on work, why going completely remote can hurt productivity, and what the future of working from home will look like.
  • One of companies’ biggest concerns when it comes to remote work is that their employees are slacking off — a phenomenon dubbed “cyberloafing.” Reporter Nicole Leonard looks into what triggers cyberloafing, how much it’s costing businesses, and why — sometimes — it can be a good thing.
  • Environmental psychologist and workplace strategist Nigel Oseland explains what makes for good office design for employees of all stripes. His consulting firm in the UK is called Workplace Unlimited.
  • Relationships with our colleagues are an important part — not only of how well we perform, but whether we enjoy our jobs. We talk with Boston University organizational psychologist Constance Noonan Hadley, founder of The Institute for Life at Work, about the importance of work connections, and how they can be nurtured even without an office.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal