Despite numerous examples and studies highlighting how beneficial working from home is, it remains a difficult sell in many workplaces, with those working remotely tending to be deprived of pay rises and promotions.
The latest evidence in support of flexible working comes via Stanford Graduate Business School’s Nicholas Bloom. He recently tested the benefits of remote working via a Chinese travel company with some 20,000 employees.
The company wanted to test the benefits of remote working to see if they could reduce their property expenses, as real estate in Shanghai is incredibly expensive. Could the company continue to thrive whilst keeping office costs under control by using remote work options?
They first recruited a number of volunteers to work in a variety of ways. Some would work largely from home, with one day per week in the office, whilst others would work purely in the office. The volunteers were tracked for two years, with a significant boost in performance found among the group working from home.
The paper outlines a couple of main reasons for this. Firstly, when we work from home, we tend to do more work. When in an office environment, not only do we commute more, but we also tend to be distracted by colleagues, go off for long lunches, or even have to take time here and there to deal with domestic issues, all of which contributes to office based workers often not clocking a full day's work.
Secondly, when we work from home, we’re often working along so our concentration levels are considerably higher.
“The office is actually an amazingly noisy environment. There’s a cake in the break room; Bob’s leaving, come join. The World Cup sweepstakes is going on. Whatever it is, the office is super-distracting,” Bloom says.
What’s more, employee engagement levels seemed to rise at the company, with resignations falling by an impressive 50% when employees were free to work from home.
“Not only do the employees benefit (by working from home), but the managers benefit because they can spend less of their time painfully advertising, recruiting, training, and promoting,” Bloom continues.
The successful experiment resulted in the company rolling out a flexible working option for employees, with profitability per employee tending to be some $2,000 higher for those taking the option up.
The research joins the bulging catalog of similar studies highlighting the gains possible when people are free to work where they want. Hopefully, it will succeed in persuading more companies to take up the option and let their employees work wherever they please.
“For employees, they’re much more productive and happier. For managers, you don’t have to spend so much time recruiting and training people. For firms, you make far more profit. For society, there’s a huge saving of reducing congestion, driving times and, ultimately, pollution,” Bloom concludes.