How Does Working from Home Affect Employees’ Productivity?

AdobeStock_333504091-300x200One of the many changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic was the work-from-home shift. As millions of workers across the nation had to switch to remote work during the pandemic, many employers wonder, “How does working from home affect the productivity of employees?

The impact that remote work has on workers’ productivity levels is a controversial topic. While some employees believe that they are more productive when working from home, others believe that their productivity decreased because they switched to remote work.

Since an increasing number of employees are working from home nowadays, more employers want to keep an eye on their work-from-home employees through the use of remote monitoring technologies.

But can California employers monitor employees’ work remotely? Or does monitoring your remote workers violate their privacy rights?

A Study Shows How Working from Home Affects Employees’ Productivity

A study by Airtasker looked into how working from home affects employees’ productivity. The study showed that remote workers work 1.4 more days per month than those who commute to work. This translates to more than two weeks of work per year.

Surveyed workers had to answer the question, “How hard is it for you to focus during the workday?” Among remote workers, 8% said it was difficult, 61% said it was easy, while the remaining 31% said it was neither easy nor difficult. Among their office-based counterparts, the answers were 6%, 71%, and 23%, respectively.

While the survey suggests that office-based workers are more productive than remote workers, other studies seem to disagree. A survey by FlexJobs showed that 95% of remote workers said their productivity was higher or the same compared to working from an office, while 51% admitted to being more productive when working from home.

Can an Employer Monitor Their Employees Working from Home?

Generally, employers can legally monitor everything remote employees do as long as any of the following is true:

  • The employer obtains the consent of the employee to monitor them; or
  • The employee works while using company equipment and the company’s network.

It is illegal for employers to monitor their remote workers if they work on their personal devices while using their own Internet connection at home and do not provide consent to being monitored.

Under California law, employers can face criminal penalties for recording the private communications of their employees or eavesdropping. Criminal penalties apply if the monitoring occurs without the consent of all parties to the communication pursuant to California Penal Code § 631.

Federal law also prohibits intentionally intercepting, using, or obtaining electronic/oral communication. Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), it is illegal for employers to monitor any oral or electronic communication of their employees unless they have a legitimate business reason to do so. This is known as the “business use” exception. Another exception to the law is when a remote employee provides their consent to the monitoring.

If you are concerned that remote working has a negative impact on your employees’ productivity and are looking for legal ways to monitor your employees who work from home, consult with a San Jose employment lawyer to explore your legal options. Contact our skilled lawyers at Structure Law Group by calling (408) 441-7500.