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Why remote work makes people less productive, and what to do about it

A behavioral scientist notes that working from home during coronavirus quarantine offers a privacy around what we’re doing that could make us less accountable and less productive. Try these tactics to stay on track.

It might seem like the glorious era of remote work is upon us, driven by a pandemic push. Zoom! Slack! Who needs the office? The promise of uncompromised productivity paired with freedom is alluring.

I’m a behavioral scientist, though, so color me skeptical.

While software can ostensibly replicate the features of an office, there are some underlying behavioral tricks that physical offices have mastered. We may not want to discard them so quickly.

Let’s start in a not-so-obvious place: habits.

People often complain that they can’t start new habits. “I have tried but I just can’t seem to [INSERT: exercise, meditate, start new hobby.]”

On average, Americans report having tried to lose weight seven times in their lives. That’s at least six failed attempts (maybe seven) to do something that they are highly motivated to do. The $9 billion self-help industry has made its fortune selling us solutions that help us achieve the “simple” goals we want to achieve.

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