2012-09-10

Co.Exist

Working From Home Makes You More Productive

Your office is slowing you down.

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.

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16 Comments

  • Alex

    Why is it one or the other? Surely employers and employees can work out splitting their time between home and the office. That way you get some of the productivity benefits and the much needed social interactions. I for one don't need to see my colleagues face to face EVERY day.

  • Oliver Scott

    Definitely right. As the best to way to recognize the opportunities of working from their homes, coupled by the requirement to be independent and also the drive to ensure success, others has decided to join this growing movement. Thanks for sharing this thoughts.

  • Chris Draper

    I've worked from home for a number of years and find that for myself, there is definitely an increase in productivity. Most companies and offices are set up to allow as little privacy as possible. The interruptions from co-workers, not to mention the background noise make it very difficult to concentrate. The endless meetings that tend to be a waste of time also lead to less productivity. Collaboration is easy, there's software available for any type of document and also conference calls.

  • idth

    Responsible workers do more job as they have less distractions, can handle their time better and sometimes barely distinguish between working hours and non-working hours.
    By the time, as working home is something relatively new is good as productivity raises, let's see in the near term how things are going and what new studies will reflect.
    On the other hand, non responsible workers could be a headache, so you need to assess what workers could be effective and efficient doing home office.
    Roberto A.
    www.idth.mx

  • Mona

    very convincing and fruitful point of view,adding to that you will save money of transportation and as you mentioned you will concentrate and no wasting time of meeting .
    I confirm that working at home will be very positive .

  • Stephen Elliott-Buckley

    I don't think it's a productivity increase when some of the gains come from workers taking fewer breaks and working more minutes per shift. That's just working longer for no pay, assuming a set number of breaks and minutes per shift are in the work environment.

    A productivity increase would come from more work done in the same amount of time.

  • Ricardo

    There are also cumulative effects. During the first weeks working at home, you feel motivated and free. But then the lack of human interaction can be very, very harmful. Saving office costs shouldn't be the goal, but gaining long-term value creation, including human value.

  • DeenaMcClusky

    I have worked from home for more than ten years and cannot fathom that more companies do not offer this option in this age of technology. A huge percentage of jobs could easily be converted to a 'work from home' system if companies could just get past the concept that they need to be able to watch you work. The world needs to get over the concept that people who work from home are lazy or doing less than others. I guarantee that I generate vastly more revenue for my company than anyone who is sitting in a cubicle. Converting to telecommuting would be a significant way for companies to 'go green' rather than acting as if changing a few light bulbs is making some huge contribution.

  • Heather

    I've been teleworking for years -- starting with a couple days a month to now full-time -- and couldn't be happier. I'm more productive, have a better work-life balance and find myself more engaged. That said, it does require work on my part to stay connected with my manager and my colleagues and make sure people still know I'm around and available. Use of instant messaging systems and speaking up at meetings works wonders.

    I've experienced so many benefits from teleworking that I created a website for teleworkers at www.teleworkingcommunity.com where teleworkers can share tips and advice.

  • David Bradley

    I don't work well from home. I think the office gives me more focus. There is always something to do at home and at work. Working from home gives me both to contend with. Just not my cup of tea.

  • Awedience

    I've worked from home for over a decade now, and this study's results aren't as straight forward as they look. The role of a call centre employee is very individual and very easy to relocate. Most jobs, however, require an element of collaboration. Whilst working from home CAN be extremely productive, nothing I've found can replace face-to-face time for teams. Hopefully, though, this study will nudge more companies that THINK they are progressive to join the 21st century?

  • Marianne Griebler

    Productivity is not a function of place; in fact, being
    trapped by a schedule and a location can put a crimp in creativity. Your results have to speak for themselves when you're not in a cubicle
    down the hall from your supervisor. You can't cover up for lack of
    productivity through office politics, sucking up to the boss, or
    appearing to look busy by running from meeting to meeting. The quality
    of your work has to stand on its own.

    Saving money, saving time and boosting productivity: working at home should be an option on the table whenever possible.

  • Primaryquay

    I have tried working from home for extended periods. 
    Whilst I wish this article was true for me, I find that issues arise such as isolation, a lack of separation from work and home life, and an abundance of distractions all make me want to rejoin the "normal" office environment rather quickly. 

  • Angie

    Please add the word 'home' to last sentence - 'working from isn’t just the environmentally conscious thing to do--it also makes good business sense.'