Research Shows that Remote Workers are More Distracted. So What?

These remote workers admit to slacking off

The statistics in this article suggest that work-from-home employees are more distracted than their in-office counterparts.  I found myself asking, even if that's the case, so what?

What the Data Says

A recent survey by SellCell suggests that 80% of employees who work from home unintentionally lose work hours to distractions and demands that wouldn’t arise if they were at the office:

  • Kids (33.8%)
  • Pets (18.1%)
  • Partner (16%).

The survey also found that majority of WFH employees admit to intentionally taking their mind off work and wandering off into other domains (quite literally) on the internet.

Social media is the top culprit. No surprise there. 61.6% of remote workers check their social media accounts in the middle of work hours.

Other distractions include:

  • Smartphones (53.7%)
  • Binge watching (42.1%)
  • Gaming (30.4%)
  • News media (24.3%)
  • Online shopping (12.3%)

And let’s not forget the part of the survey that confirms “more than 2 in 5 employees (43.2%) admit to surfing adult content websites on company-issued devices – all while on the clock”.  (You have to wonder about that percentage who didn't admit to this type of surfing.)

Despite all the Data...

Despite all the data, I continue to believe that the main question for employers with remote workers is:

Are employees providing value in accordance with their wages?

And how do you measure that value?

The answer is - focus on the thing that matters most - results!  Barring the adult content surfing on company devices, my take on this subject is as long as employees can demonstrate that they're providing value to your business, and that value is executed in a way that's in line with your values, why worry about the “how” and "when or if they're shopping online, scrolling through Instagram or taking their dog for a long walk during work hours?

Obviously employees need to be online and available for scheduled meetings but for any time that they're distracted during the 9 to 5, they're very likely making up for it by working early mornings or late nights to get their work done - if  they know they're measured on results. You will (or should) notice if they're not and you can manage it if that’s the case. 

How do you Measure Results?

So how do we measure the value our remote workers bring to the table?  We need tools and processes that coordinate and measure results.

Implement a Work from Home Policy

If you don’t already have a Remote Work Policy, consider developing one to provide employees with crystal clear guidelines on working from home.  A carefully established policy (that’s reviewed periodically) is key to creating a mutually beneficial work environment for all parties involved. 

Teleworking Policy &
Agreement Template

Preview & Download this template to see essential terms and conditions. 

Measure Productivity via Status Reports

Rather than monitoring the amount of time employees spend logged into Slack or participating in Zoom calls, focus on outputs and results. 

Weekly Status Reports cultivate trust and transparency and are a fundamental business tool for any remote workforce. With a status report, there's no need to micromanage. No need for spyware. Your employees just need to take 15 minutes a week to record and report on their results. 

ConnectsUs HR has been 100% virtually operated since 2006 and I interviewed our CEO pre-pandemic in November 2019 on the topic of Virtual Workforces for a Small Business. The article is still very much applicable today. The most important nugget for me was the topic of Status Reports.

"You have to manage your team differently. Focusing on results is key. I don’t care if someone spends all day watching Ellen as long as at the end of the week, the results are in.

The one thing that we implemented was status reports. Everyone has to complete a weekly status report and report on their accomplishments and results. In today’s world, we have metrics at our fingertips. For example: how many prospects and customers did we speak to on Chat? On email? And these are recorded as results in the status reports.

This simple document was such a game changer and major eye opener. It’s easy to say that I’ve been in front of my screen for 35 hours this week, but it’s a different ballgame when I have to document what exactly was achieved during my 35 hours. The ultimate question is “What value did I create for the business in exchange for the $1,000 I was paid this week?”. It's a fair question. 

Some people reading this may say that this is unfair or invasive.  But is it?  You’re not asked how much time you worked, when you worked it, or where. With status reports, we bypass all the unimportant details and skip right to the meat:  Results."

 Weekly STatus
Report Template

Preview & Download this Status Report as an individual template.
Hint: This template is also included in the Teleworking Policy & Agreement template (above).


Take Away

Don't worry too much about the data that says your remote workers may be more distracted. Your business doesn’t need to shy away from the WFH option. 

There's a lot more resources available than you may think. Find what works for your business with work-from-home policies and procedures that cultivate trust, transparency and efficiency, and most importantly, focus on employee output and results. 

Also check out all Work from Home posts. 

Sarah Visca
Sarah Visca is the Operations Manager at ConnectsUs HR, a company that provides tools & resources to quickly set up a Human Resources department.  
You can contact her here