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Lifestyle, Research

Study: Is It Possible To Be A “Productive Stoner”?

Cesar Gallegos

by Cesar Gallegos

April 11, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 8 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Study: Is It Possible To Be A “Productive Stoner”?

The increased acceptance and use of cannabis and the increase in work from home (WFH) since the pandemic have arguably been the two biggest societal trends of the 2020s. According to Forbes research, in 2023, 12.7% of workers were completely remote, while 28.2% had a hybrid schedule. According to the National Institute of Health data from 2022, cannabis use among adults aged 19-30 (44%) and 35-50 (28%) was at an all-time high. Though these two trends may seem unrelated on the surface — together, they signal that the 2020’s will reshape what the workplace looks like, forever. These two intertwined trends also bring to mind one massive question: In the age of remote work, is it possible to be a productive stoner?

To answer that question requires an understanding of how WFH and cannabis use affect productivity. The answer to that may decide WHO will benefit from the workplace changes coming in the 2020s: employees or employers

What It Means To Be “Productive” When You WFH

A recent study from Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy and Research took an intensive look at productivity in the age of WFH. 

At the core of the study is the admission that employers and employees view the concept of “productivity” from entirely different angles. For managers and employers, productivity is simply the amount of work that an employee completes in their paid time. For employees, productivity is a measure of the total time they spend on their jobs. That means that employees include the time they spend commuting to work when thinking about productivity.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the research.

WFH From The Employee Perspective:

For an employee working 8 hours a day who lives 30 minutes from the office, their perception is that their average work day is actually 9 hours once their commute is factored in.

The typical WFH employees, including those on a hybrid schedule, experienced an average of 1.05 fewer commuting days per week. This resulted in a reduction of about 68 minutes in commute time on average—or 2.8 percent of a 40-hour workweek.

Let’s assume this worker is able to do the same amount of work at home as they do in the office. In the employee’s minds, the hours they save in commute time means they have more time to spend on work, accounting for an 11% increase in productivity.

With that in mind, it is not surprising that 43% of WFH workers say they are more productive while only 14% say they are less productive, according to the Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes

WFH From The Employer Perspective

Research featured in Stanford’s study analyzed data from a Fortune 500 firm that operated remote and on-site call centers pre-pandemic. At this firm, formerly onsite employees experienced a 4 percent dip in productivity compared to their already-remote counterparts. Further, these new WFH employees had difficulties maintaining the same call quality they previously had in the office.

This data shows one of the downsides of WFH as newly remote employees struggle to adapt to their new setting while maintaining their old productivity. These findings are especially revealing as the dip occurred in a firm that already had WFH standards and practices in place. This indicates that firms pivoting to WFH on the fly may experience even steeper declines in productivity — at least initially. 

So, Who’s Right?

A big part of this WFH drop in productivity is attributed to the increased time spent on coordination and communication. With lengthier meetings, workers lose out on time they would otherwise spend on work. However, with the average worker spending an extra 1.5 hours working that otherwise would’ve been part of their commute — productivity loss may not actually be as significant as it appears. 

The Stanford study said this about the productivity question: ”From the worker’s perspective, and from a societal perspective as well, the company’s shift to remote work had small effects on productivity.”

That said, Stanford’s study also emphasizes the importance of in-person coordination for getting everyone on the same page early in the project process. From there, however, researchers say that employees can handle the more technical aspects of a project from home with no loss in productivity.

So, does remote work reduce productivity? It depends. The real answer is that WFH allows employees to spend more time actually working, but intermittent office time may still be needed, especially at the beginning of projects.

Cannabis and Productivity: Is It Possible To Be a “Productive Stoner”? 

For years, the “lazy stoner” stereotype has been used as a strawman to push anti-cannabis agendas. This stereotype was so pervasive that the term “motivational” was adopted in the research field to describe lethargic cannabis users.

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In the late 90s, the US Department of Health and Human Services even put out a book warning parents that youth cannabis use could result in an apathetic approach to life, fatigue, and poor academic performance.

But, just how true is this stereotype? Let’s take a look at a 2006 survey — published in the National Library of Medicine — that tackled the “lazy stoner” stereotype, and the past and recent research that supports its findings.

Pre-2000’s Research

Prior to unveiling the findings of their 2006 survey, its researchers outlined the pre-2000 “…laboratory performance research, education data, and employment statistics…” they reviewed in preparation. This extensive research review found little support for the lazy stoner stereotype. In fact, researchers noted multiple studies indicating cannabis use has no effects on wages or job turnover. 

In young students, cannabis use is linked with lower grades. However, researchers pointed out that these findings were confounded by the fact that many students who use cannabis also tend to use substances like alcohol or other illicit drugs.

Though some of the studies cited here are over 20 years old, it is unlikely that these studies — if conducted in the present — would change substantially, let alone completely flip. In the time since these studies came out, cannabis became harder for students to access and, in turn, more accessible and regulated for adults, meaning professionals in every industry now use it.

The 2006 Survey

The 2006 survey looked at data from 1300 survey participants who were asked about their motivation. Participants were filtered down into two groups: heavy cannabis users (7 days a week), representing 243 participants, and those who abstained entirely (0/days a week), representing 244 participants.

Individuals were asked to complete 12 questions from the Apathy Evaluation Scale. The process is similar to the apathy tests used in previous studies on substance abuse and motivation.

After comparing the results of the two groups, research found little difference in their motivation. Even after accounting for outliers in both groups, researchers found insignificant differences in motivation between those who didn’t smoke cannabis at all and frequent users.

More Current Research

Research conducted since the 2006 survey has only solidified its claims that productive stoners may not be the unicorns society thinks they are.

A 2016 study found that while cannabis use can cause temporary laziness, it by no means leads to the “chronic amotivational syndrome.In this study, participants were randomly given either cannabis + CBD, just cannabis, or a placebo. This type of setup ensures that the subsequent data is as accurate and variance-free as possible.

A 2019 study, meanwhile, found that light and regular cannabis use does not significantly affect motivation. The study looked at cannabis use amongst teenagers, hoping to find out how the plant interacted with the developing brain. Along with dispelling old myths about cannabis, the study found that teenage alcohol use was more likely to lead to decreases in motivation than cannabis.

The only real question remaining is whether adolescent cannabis use can significantly affect cognitive development. This is a question the National Institutes of Health hopes to address with the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development® Study (ABCD Study®), which finished gathering participants in 2018. The decades-long study will follow a group of 10,000 children as they grow into adulthood. When completed, the studies’ results could drastically shift the way people view cannabis’ effects on the future labor force. 


So, is it possible to be a productive stoner in the age of remote work? The answer, for now, seems to be a mild yes.

Remote work is a contentious topic, and that is not likely to change. If research shows anything, it’s that most employers and employees can benefit from a hybrid model. That said, companies offering a fully-remote will definitely have an edge when it comes to hiring.

When it comes to cannabis, the research is all too clear. The “lazy stoner” stereotype could not be more off-base. By excluding cannabis users, companies are losing out on valuable talent. If they do not change their course soon, local governments may just do it for them.

>> Learn more about productivity and cannabis use with our guide to the best daytime strains.

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