Telecommuting is an attractive option for many workers. It also offers advantages for employers. But some employers may hesitate to allow workers to work from home, assuming that they won’t be as productive without more direct, visible supervision.
However, according to Slate, a Stanford University study on a Chinese travel agency with over 12,000 employees concluded that working remotely noticeably increases performance.
The study looked at 508 employees in the agency’s airfare and ticketing office in Shanghai, who were divided into two groups:
One that worked from home after being confirmed to have an adequate remote working environment; and
One that had to continue commuting to work.
Within a few weeks of tracking, the performance of the telecommuting group started to outpace their cubicle-bound counterparts. Over the duration of the experiment, home workers answered 15% more calls, partly because each hour was 4% more productive and partly because telecommuters spent 11% more time answering phone calls.
The home-work group converted phone calls into sales at exactly the same rate as those in the office. They also reported less “work exhaustion,” a more positive attitude towards their jobs and were nearly 50% less likely to say they were planning to quit at the end of the eight months. (In fact, the quit rate among home-office workers during the experiment was about one-half of what it was for those making the commute.)
In addition, home workers took fewer breaks and sick days, rarely arrived late to their desks and had fewer distractions.
Bottom line: After tracking both groups for a few weeks, the employees in the work-from-home group took more calls, logged more hours and were overall more productive than the other group. They were even happier and quit less often.
After seeing these results, the agency expanded the policy to get more people to work from home. But some employees opted out because they valued the time they spent socializing with co-workers.