Post sponsored by Rivier University
By Brian Neese
Many employees are attracted to the concept of working remotely. Not only does remote work allow for more flexibility in the workplace, but it eliminates the many problems found in open office environments, allows employees more sleep, and eliminates the daily commute.
Unfortunately, remote work is not the standard. The New York Times reports that telecommuters make up only 2.6%% of the American workforce, when defined as those at private, nonprofit, or government organizations who work from home at least half the time. Telecommuting has increased, however, rising 79% between 2005 and 2012. For 2014, FlexJobs reported a 26% increase in work-from-home jobs on its site over the previous year, led by top companies like Amazon and Kaplan.
Says Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, “The positive impact remote work options can have on a company’s bottom line and culture is increasingly being acknowledged by smart employers. The organizations on this list are among those leading the charge to show that remote work options are a part of successful 21st century workplaces.”
In an interview with Harvard Business Review, authors of a recent work-from-home study presented the results of their experiment at Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency. Along with other evidence, their findings demonstrate that although remote work isn’t ideal for every situation, savvy companies can reap the rewards.
Benefits of remote work
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the Ctrip experiment, which placed 255 call center employees into a work from home or control group for nine months, was the boost in productivity for those who worked from home. “The results we saw at Ctrip blew me away,” said Nicholas Bloom, the study’s lead author. “We found that people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did—meaning that Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them.”
“One-third of the productivity increase, we think, was due to having a quieter environment, which makes it easier to process calls.… Offices are incredibly distracting places,” Bloom said. “The other two-thirds can be attributed to the fact that the people at home worked more hours. They started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day. They had no commute. They didn’t run errands at lunch. Sick days for employees working from home plummeted.”
Other companies and research found boosts in productivity for remote workers:
- Home-based workers at Sun Microsystems returned about 50% of the time they saved by not commuting to the company, keeping the other half for themselves and their families.
- 70% of telecommuting employees improved their productivity, according to a survey from collaboration software provider PGi.
- 78% of managers reported that telecommuting workers were more productive than or as productive as their in-office colleagues, according to a survey from Korn/Ferry International.
- A meta-analysis of 46 studies published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found performance benefits for telecommuting.
Employee morale and culture
The improvement remote working has on employee morale is almost a given. At Ctrip, Bloom reported that “predictably, at-home workers reported much higher job satisfaction.”