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How productive are people who work from home?

is working from home more productive?

Concerns about productivity levels are one of the key stumbling blocks for employers considering allowing people to work from home.

Initially, homeworking looks like it offers the employee everything in terms of convenience and flexibility, while the employer and other colleagues are left to field extra calls and take up the slack.

But with the right plan in place, working from home will be beneficial to both the individual and the company they work for. In fact, a business might even find that its productivity levels increase through the implementation of homeworking.

Research recently published by Stanford revealed that homeworkers actually tend to be more productive than their colleagues who are based in an office all week.

The study showed that there is a ten per cent chance that US workers work from home at least once a week and a 4.3 per cent chance of them working from home most of the time. Despite the growing popularity of the trend, there is still a widespread level of scepticism about working from home.

In an attempt to dispel this attitude, Standford conducted a randomised study of remote workers. They used the travel agency Ctrip, based in Shanghai, China, and its 13,000 employees as as a model.

The company was concerned about the rising costs of office space and a 50 per cent annual attrition rate. It also reported that 255 employees in its airfare and hotel divisions wanted to work from home and met the requirements to do so.

These 255 workers were split into two groups for the purpose of the study; those whose birthdays fell on even-numbered days worked from home four days out of every five-day week, while those with odd-numbered birthdays stayed in the office. Both groups had the same (office-based) supervisors and worked the same shifts to ensure a fair comparison.

Over the course of the nine-month study, it was revealed that the homeworkers' productivity levels increased by 12 per cent. A total of 8.5 per cent of this came from working more hours (due to shorter breaks and fewer sick days), while 3.5 per cent came from an increased performance-per minute rate.

Furthermore, there was a 50 per cent decrease in attrition among the work from home group, and a substantially higher work satisfaction level as well. In addition to the positive results seen in the homeworkers group, the study recorded no negative spill-overs to the productivity of the office-based control group, even though they had indicated that they also wished to work from home.

One final and surprising finding came out of the research: Following the nine-month trial, Ctrip offered all of its qualified employees across the company the opportunity to work from home. Statistics were tracked for several more months and it was noted that employees who were already more productive tended to opt into the work from home scheme, while those less-productive employees chose to remain in the office. The researchers suggested that this could mean that allowing homeworking could help to filter out prospective employees by productivity.

Studies such as these are slowly starting to turn around the public perception of working from home as it becomes clear that people that do so are not dodging work but are in some cases contributing more than their office-based colleagues by taking fewer sick days and working longer hours. If you're looking into making an application to work from home, it could be worth providing your employer with studies such as this Stanford one to reassure them that you could be an even more valuable employee given the chance to work from home.

Pictures from Stanford University work from home survey
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