Can Telecommuting Make Workers More Productive?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Many employees dream of being able to work from home at least one or two days a week, but companies may be hesitant about pursuing this option and messing with the status quo. Now, one study offers some compelling evidence that a little telecommuting can go a long way to increase the productivity of workers and therefore the company’s as a whole.

Researchers at Stanford analyzed a group of 255 call center employees from a large travel company in China who were selected to work four of their five shifts each week at home and found that these employees worked longer and took 15% more phone calls than those who were stuck all week in the office.

The reason, according to the study, is that employees generally found themselves less distracted at home and were therefore able to boost their productivity. (The one exception to this was the week around the Chinese New Year when the telecommuters found themselves more distracted by having family over.) What’s more, the general well-being of workers improved somewhat during the course of the nine-month study, potentially making it easier for some to work longer hours while also reducing the turnover rate.

So those who telecommuted put in longer hours, were more productive while working and were less likely to quit? Sounds like a win-win for everyone involved: The employees are happier and the business saves money. Indeed, the experiment proved so successful that since the study began, the researchers report the firm is expanding its telecommuting options to other sectors of the company.

Needless to say, there are plenty of variables in the study that may affect whether it will work for other companies and for specific employees. For example, the workers who took part in this trial all had worked at the company for at least six months, meaning they were more experienced. And of course, their job of taking phone calls is easier to do from the comfort of one’s home than, say, doing construction work or any job that requires a lot of meetings.

Still, the report is a reminder that some jobs can be done just as well if not better by telecommuting, and that’s a valuable message at a time when many Americans confess to feeling like their work/life balance is eroding away.

(Hat tip to GigaOm)

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