The Coronavirus pandemic has instantly normalized the practice of working from home. It’s no longer only available for a select few, and it’s improving the work that we do.
Today, millions of Americans now work from home.
And, a 7-year-old study at a Chinese travel agency might have predicted just how much more productive we are when we ditch the commute. By 13%, in fact.
In 2013, Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom studied remote work productivity at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee travel agency in China. The study found that among the 1,000 employees who volunteered for the research project, most employees experienced a remarkable improvement in productivity when they worked from home four days a week.
The study found that these workers were 13% more productive at home.
“Of that 13% increased output, around 4% of it came from workers being able to cram in more tasks per minute due to fewer distractions,” wrote BBC. “The remaining 9% was attributed to workers actually working more minutes per shift.”
As a result of the study, Ctrip rolled out a work from home option to the entire firm, letting employees decide to work from home or at the office. Over half of the company switched to working from home, and Ctrip found a 22% improvement in productivity from those who chose to switch – almost doubling the findings of the first study.
“Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and their attrition rate halved,” the report added.
However, work from home policies won’t work the same way for every company. And, Ctrip’s work from home option was only available to those without children, have a dedicated office space outside of their bedroom and access to fast Internet.
Many companies will need employees to work on-site to complete their jobs. Kids and other distractions can significantly affect staff productivity when working remotely. And, the availability of a fast and reliable Internet connection is required for most remote positions.
Further, the remote environment can have a big impact on employee performance. “It’s harder to be productive when you’re in a less-than-ideal living situation, like a cramped flat with no home office,” wrote BBC. “Remember, those in Bloom’s study had a room to work in that wasn’t their bedroom. For many people, that is simply not the case.”
The pros outweigh the cons, Bloom said. “In the long run, I think it’s huge. Imagine: we go to something like 20% of our days are spent working from home. That’s 20% less commuting. That’s the ability to live further out of city centers to reorganize our lives [and] have some quiet tranquillity. So yes, I think it’s an enormous benefit.”
Since 2013, access to high-speed Internet has improved around the world, and the Coronavirus has helped to normalize the concept of remote work by making it an option at many employers.