Is working from home actually productive?

There is extensive debate about whether or not employees are more productive when they work from home. While it does save on travel time and office space, some people find it distracting to work in a non-disciplined work environment.


At Aintree Group, we are open-minded to having flexible working conditions for our employees. All employees are able to organise leaving early to attend classes, appointments or work from home so they can be on hand to help with family matters. 

But some businesses decide to avoid the productivity risk by prohibiting the practice - Yahoo employees were famously (or infamously) banned from working from home in 2013.

To settle the debate, Nicholas Bloom, Professor of Economics at Stanford University, paired up with the co-founder of Chinese travel website Ctrip to do some research on employees working from home.

The study:

They gave half of the staff at Ctrip’s call centre the opportunity to volunteer to work from home for nine months. The other half remained in the office as a control group.

The results:

Survey responses and performance data revealed that the at-home workers were actually more productive in comparison to the employees who came into the office, as well as happier. The people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did.

However, Bloom does acknowledge that the results are not necessarily applicable to all business models. Ctrip utilises call centre work, which is easily measured and easily performed remotely.

Bloom believes that ‘the more robotic the work, the greater the benefits’ of working from home. Creative work and teamwork requires more interaction with other employees, and so working from home could hinder progress in that area.

In addition, individual employee preference also makes a big difference. Not everybody wants to work from home, and not everyone is disciplined enough to be productive and focused at home.

As a general rule, older workers, married workers and parents seem to benefit the most from working at home.

It's also good to be aware of culture concerns. Bloom says low morale could lead to employees slacking, which would probably increase if they were away from the immediate scrutiny of an office environment.

The conclusion:

Bloom says overall the evidence suggests that one or two days a week at home (in most jobs) will be beneficial to employee's well-being. And, it will help businesses attract talent and lower attrition. 


Article originally posted by Plant Grow Reap.

Information sourced from Harvard Business Review.

Click Here for interview with Prof. Bloom.