‘Boost career pathways for remote workers to increase productivity’

A new US study shows that remote workers are more productive generally, but that they could be even more so if employers encourage a wider range of workers into remote roles.

woman working from home at night


Working from home make employees more productive, according to a new study which investigates ways to increase that productivity bonus and career pathways for remote workers.

The study by Harvard economics doctoral students Natalia Emanuel and Emma Harrington, concludes that remote working may be more productive for call-centre work, and possibly for other sectors, and suggests that firms could pay workers a premium to work remotely to encourage more to do so.

The study analysed the performance of call-centre workers employed by a big online retailer between January 2018 and August 2020 and found that the average worker answered 26 calls a day, or about one every 20 minutes.

The researchers found that while remote work increased individual productivity, this could be boosted significantly further through encouraging more workers – particularly the most productive on-site – to switch to remote working. For example, employers could ensure that they select workers with long histories of on-site experience to work remotely and could focus more on understanding the interplay between remote work and teamwork.

The researchers add that remote workers at the retailer tend to have flatter career ladders than those working on site. They say: “If new remote hires anticipate short career ladders, then workers who don’t expect to advance may be the ones who accept remote offers: thus, negative selection may be endogenous to the opportunities afforded to remote workers. Future work that experimented with offering a steeper career ladder to remote workers would be useful to unpack how much differential promotion opportunities drives differential selection.”

They suggest a hybrid model could boost career opportunities, given face-time is a key determinant of promotion, and encourage a wider range of workers into this way of working.

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