Working from home is a productivity winner

I work from home and I’m very productive hence it’s true for everyone. Not so simple.

The January-February 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review reports on a study conducted by a Stanford professor and one of his graduate student with the staff of a call center. Volunteers were randomly assigned to work from home or in the office for nine months. The at-home workers were 13.5% more productive (as measured by the number of calls they took) and quit at a rate of 50% (!) less than others. The productivity increase is attributed to fewer distractions and longer work hours. (I agree wholeheartedly based on my own experience.)

No word on whether the lower performance of the control group stemmed from their frustration about not having been chosen to work from home!

Do you have a hard time convincing yourself or others that home-based workers are productive?

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3 Comments

  • Haim Toeg Reply

    Fran├žoise – I think this topic deserves a more nuanced position.

    Thinking about high-complexity enterprise technology support, the nature of work is closer to that of knowledge workers than to call center agents, and I believe there is ample research showing the value of random interactions and cross-pollination in these environments. These interactions may help develop he organization over time to become more effective and efficient by having more knowledgeable employees. this may not be a concern for a high-attrition call center environment, but certainly a concern for enterprise support.

    Having an organization that’s completely home based may be efficient now, but in my opinion it misses on considerable development opportunities for the future. Surely there is a balance somewhere, allowing people to work partly from home and partly in the office so everybody can benefit.

    • ft-admin Reply

      Haim- Your point about balance is well taken. I think many support organizations are afraid of working from home in principle and my wish is that everyone relaxes a bit. At least for the right people (already trained, reasonably mature, willing to engage even when remote) remote work can allow recruiting and retraining more talent.

  • Pauline Mulvey Reply

    I am often frustrated by managers who believe if they can’t see a worker, they can’t manage them. So not true! And today there are so many tools available for business social connectivity that working from home folks are just as connected as the folks in the office. Using this type of technology can eliminate any challenge of workers not all being in one spot. Posting a quick chat to crowdsource an answer from a team can be successfully accomplished regardless of where the agent/tech resides. The one at home is saved the distraction of “water cooler” or weekend updates.

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