With fewer interruptions, remote workers engage in deeper work, research indicates

Remote workers spend more time on focused work and face fewer interruptions to work than their in-office colleagues, according to a Jan. 16 report by Hubstaff, a workforce analytics software company.

Remote team members spend about 60% of their week on “focus time,” as compared with about 50% for in-office teams. Focus time, defined as 30 or more minutes of productive time with little distraction, averaged 273 minutes each day for remote workers and 223 minutes for in-office workers.

“Our data challenges misconceptions surrounding remote work, demonstrating that it supports deep, focused work and saves valuable time and resources,” Jared Brown, Hubstaff’s CEO, said in a statement.

“As we continue our research journey, we encourage companies to explore the potential benefits of remote work, especially in roles requiring concentrated focus,” he said.

Overall, remote workers spend 22.75 hours on focus time each week, as compared to 18.6 hours among in-office workers. They also experience 18% fewer interruptions during deep concentration periods.

Since workers take about 23 minutes to regain focus after an interruption, the average in-office worker loses 6.52 hours — nearly a full work day — per week to interruptions and downtime, the report indicated. In contrast, remote workers spend 1.19 fewer hours in recovery time, which adds up to 61.88 hours of regained work time annually.

In general, remote work improved worker productivity and business performance during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Future studies will look at long-term effects on attrition, collaboration challenges and cost savings from reduced office space.

For the most part, hiring managers have indicated that remote work is here to stay, even as return-to-office conversations continue this year, according to a survey by Express Employment Professionals. HR leaders noted talent acquisition and retention as top reasons for maintaining remote work, along with productivity and lower overhead costs.

Even still, remote work can pose challenges for recruiting, hiring and onboarding, according to a report from MindEdge Learning and the HR Certification Institute. More than half of HR professionals said recruiting is harder than before the pandemic, and 30% said remote interviews are less productive than in-person interviews.