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The Difference Between Simply Being Productive and Learning to Work Efficiently

What will last when we go back to the office?

As remote working has slowly started to subside, we’ve overlooked possibly the biggest positive outcome of working from home: efficiency. Efficiency is the ability to work fast while still producing quality work.

There is a plethora of information out there about whether or not productivity has increased while working from home during COVID-19. Extensive lists of pros and cons for working remotely are coursing through the veins of the internet as you read this. But what about the efficiency that is being produced by remote working?

The fact of the matter is that the majority of people are more productive working remotely as apposed to working from the office. We get more work done because we put more hours into our work, or in other words, we work twice as hard because we work twice as long. However, this productivity has come at a cost. A cost to our mental health, physical health, and especially our social health.

So, what happens when the workforce inevitably goes back to working in the office?Will the productivity stick?

The top reasons for increased productivity while working remotely are as follows:

- fewer distractions

- fewer interruptions from colleagues

- less stress because there’s no commute

- less pressure to meet face-to-face

- not showing up to work for the sake of showing up - quieter noise levels

These assets to working productively disappear when people go back to the office. The productivity we gained because of working from home will not have lasting affects when we go back to our 9-to-5 office work.

Unlike efficiency, productivity is not something that is learned. Productivity relies heavily on our work environment, whereas efficiency is attributed to skills that are acquired when we are forced to adapt.

For example, parents with small children are learning to work full-time from home, while also parenting full-time. They are refining their skills as a diligent worker because of the unusual situation they find themselves in. The same is true, to varying degrees, for most people working from home.

Efficiency habits are developed as a result of the circumstances we face. Completing our work as quickly as possible while maintaining the quality of our work is an important skill that many of us have only started learning recently. These skills include:

Identifying Priority of Tasks

As a result of unavoidable at-home interruptions, there is a need to delegate work tasks. Those who are adapting to working remotely are learning to decide which of their work tasks are most important, which tasks need the most of their attention and how long each task will take.

Time Management

After identifying the different priority levels of tasks, remote workers are learning how to schedule their daily work tasks in order to fit them into their other respective household tasks and responsibilities.


There are very few people who do not experience unexpected at-home interruptions. Interruptions can include anything from the dog needing a walk, to a knock at the door, to the kids fighting in the living room. Being able to switch from task to task without becoming flustered and overwhelmed is a skill that is only learned by experience. Who knew we’d be forced to practice this kind of flexibility for months on end?

Increased Concentration

Self-control and discipline is necessary in order to get tasks done at home. There are limited time slots to complete work, especially for parents. Locking your concentration on a specific task is necessary in order to complete that said task before the next interruption occurs.

Efficiency will outlast this season of remote working and continue as we go back to work in the office. This is because the skills learned at home can be transferred to the workplace. These skills are sparked by a change in circumstance and environment, but are not reliant on circumstances and the work environment.

Efficiency skills are habits and disciplines that stick around much longer than the crisis that created the need for them. If these skills are cultivated now, efficiency will thrive as we ease back into the workplace and will create a healthier work ethic as a result. Long, gruelling hours of trying to be productive will no longer last for those who have acquired these skills, because efficiency changes the way we approach work.


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