There are plenty of legitimate reasons to work from home: it saves gasoline (if you drive or take the bus), eliminates commuting time, and on the company side, it means that less office space is needed to accomodate employees. Now there’s another reason, backed by a study (PDF) from Stanford: People who work from home are more productive than those that don’t.
The latest telecommuting talking point comes from a study that randomized 250 call center employees at a Chinese company, designating some as telecommuters for four days a week and asking others to come into the office every workday for a nine-month period. The reasoning: the company, CTrip (China’s biggest travel agency), was considering a company-wide work from home policy to decrease high attrition rates and cut down on office costs.
In the end, the researchers behind the study found that telecommuters ramped up their performance by 13%—9.5% attributable to taking fewer sick days and breaks and working more minutes per shift, and 3.5% because they took more calls each minute because of access to a quiet environment. Job attrition rates among the telecommuters dropped by half, and they reported more work satisfaction, too. CTrip also saved approximately $2,000 per employee.
As a result of the experiment, CTrip decided to roll out a company-wide work from home program. Not everyone who participated in the study, however, elected to work from home—two-thirds of the control group stayed in the office, while half of the telecommuters decided they would rather be in the office as well. Unsurprisingly, the telecommuters who experienced an increase in performance were the ones who decided to stay home.
Call center work is, of course, fairly straightforward and easy to track—so while the study found no impact on the ability of the telecommuters to get promoted, the same may not hold true in other professions where goals are more nebulous. Still, the study provides ample fuel for anyone trying to convince their boss that working from home isn’t just the environmentally conscious thing to do—it also makes good business sense.