While increasing evidence suggests that employees who work from home document increases in productivity and employee satisfaction, it’s not a universally accepted practice. Of course, not all work can be performed at home. For work groups such as call-center employees, however, working from home improves their work-life balance and benefits the business as well.
The Ctrip Experiment
Stanford published the results of a nine-month long experiment coming out of the 16,000-person Chinese travel agency Ctrip, which randomly let employees work from home. The results show that employees who worked from home increased their productivity by 13 percent and had higher satisfaction. They took fewer sick days and had a more comfortable work environment. After the experiment, the company rolled out the work from home option throughout their workforce and saw a 22 percent productivity increase. Furthermore, the agency reported that the company saved almost $2,000 per employee on furniture and office space.
The researchers also found that employees with established social lives liked the work-at-home option more than younger employees. Parents, older workers and married workers got more out of working from home than their younger co-workers.
Why More Aren’t Working From Home
The main reason more employers don’t adopt a work-from-home option is that there is a lack of trust in the workforce, explains Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology at Lancaster University. Work Wise chief executive Phil Flaxton says it’s also due in part to management ego and part management incompetence and not knowing how to manage a remote workforce. Many employers believe teams need to be face-to-face on a daily basis for effectiveness and aren’t willing to foot the bill for the technology for work-from-home options.
However, it’s not only management’s fault that more people aren’t working from home. Cooper says that some employees also lack trust in home-working, feeling it could cost them promotions or opportunities for advancement as well as cause isolation and missing out on social interactions at the office.
Work from Home Accountability
Work from home accountability is not just an employer’s priority. Employees who work from home have concerns about it, too. They want to get all the credit they’re due for their work efforts and results. Advances in technology, especially high-speed internet and smartphones, have made it easier and more economical for employers to keep an eye on remote workers and for those workers to stay connected and productive.
Working remotely in the cloud with current technology helps employees focus more on the work in the comfort of home surroundings. Cloud solutions help managers and staff save and share documents with real-time file syncing so that everyone is always on the same page. Managers also can check in and check up on remote workers with video chats in Google Hangouts, or manage their teams through team task management software like Asana, which is free for up to 29 team members.
Managers and CEOs agree that virtual face-to-face check-ins and meetings with tools like Skype and other collaborative video conferencing systems are important when managing a virtual workforce. But, Pinnacle Solutions’ HR manager Ben Eubanks says even without them, it is obvious to employers when their workers aren’t performing at home because they lack results and miss deadlines.