One of the main reasons why many employers are reluctant to allow their staff to work from home or offer flex-time opportunities is they fear the loss of productivity and control they believe is inherent in an on-premise work environment. Despite the trend among even large, multinational companies to allow a significant portion of their employees to work from home at least some of the time, most U.S. workers still deal with commuting to an office every workday.
This, despite mounting evidence that working from home actually increases productivity and lowers overall employer costs. A recent Stanford University study conducted at a Chinese travel agency found that productivity actually rose 12% among a group of workers who were allowed to work from home as part of the study. They also displayed a whopping 50% decrease in attrition during that same period.
A consultant and Harvard Business Review columnist also found the same results during his experience working at an investment firm. He observed remote workers were actually more engaged and productive than those who worked on-site and gave his own theories as to why he thought this was the case in a recent HBR blog post.
Of course, all of the above evidence isn’t to say that remote working is right for everyone or every company. One of the most interesting results of the Stanford University study mentioned above is, in the aftermath of the experiment, after the Chinese company decided to offer remote working opportunities to all eligible employees, only about half accepted the deal. In fact, about a third of those remote workers who were involved in the study actually opted to return to the office.
Clearly, remote working isn’t for everyone, and while it may seem like a wonderful perk to employees, the reality is some may derive more benefits from it than others. One of the reasons given by the employees in the Chinese study for returning to the office – or staying there – was simply that they missed the human interaction. Others said they preferred having a clear demarcation between the home and the workplace, something they found challenging to accomplish when working exclusively at home.
Still, it’s clear that remote work is a viable option for many companies and employees. An option that may be even more critical as we become more entrenched in a globalized economy.