Homeworkers are more productive than their office counterparts, according to the first randomised experiment of homeworking.
The experiment by Professor Nicholas Bloom and colleagues is published in the current edition of the Toulouse Network for Information Technology newsletter.
The researchers say over 10% of the US workforce now report regular home working, but they add that there is a uncertainty and scepticism over the effectiveness of this, highlighted by phrases like “shirking from home”.
They ran their experiment on a 13,000 employee NASDAQ listed Chinese firm. Employees that volunteered to work from home were randomised into nine months of home-working by even/odd birth-date. They found a highly significant 12% increase in performance from home-working, of which 8% is from working more minutes of their shift period (fewer breaks and sick days) and 3% from higher performance per minute.
They found no negative spillovers onto workers left in the office. Home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and psychological attitude scores, and their job attrition rates fell by over 50%.
The firm had previously not known what the impact of homeworking was and ran the experiment to evaluate it. After the experiment was so enthusiastic it decided to permanently roll out the practice. The employees’ response was much more heterogeneous, with about one third of employees switching practices after the end of the experiment.
The researchers say: “This highlights how the impact of management practices like home-working is unclear to firms and employees, helping to explain their slow adoption over time.”