Working remotely with all of its current press continues to be an unknown entity to many. Like any innovative business model there are pros and cons that need to be understood to fully implement and reap the benefits.
In January 2014, the Harvard Business Review published an article laying out the pros and cons of working remotely. Written by Nicholas Bloom and graduate student James Liang, who is also a cofounder of the Chinese travel website Ctrip, it used Mr. Liang’s company as a model to conduct the study. “(The writers) gave the staff at Ctrip’s call center the opportunity to volunteer to work from home for nine months. Half the volunteers were allowed to telecommute; the rest remained in the office as a control group. Survey responses and performance data collected at the conclusion of the study revealed that, in comparison with the employees who came into the office, the at-home workers were not only happier and less likely to quit but also more productive.”
Here are some bold strokes of what they found:
“They found that people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did—meaning that Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them.”
“It estimated that it saved $1,900 per employee for the nine months.”
“One-third of the productivity increase, we think, was due to having a quieter environment, which makes it easier to process calls. At home people don’t experience what we call the “cake in the break room” effect. Offices are actually incredibly distracting places. The other two-thirds can be attributed to the fact that the people at home worked more hours. They started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day. They had no commute. They didn’t run errands at lunch. Sick days for employees working from home plummeted. Search “working remotely” on the web, and everything that comes up will be super-negative and say that telecommuters don’t work as hard as people in the office. But actually, it’s quite the opposite.”
Now while these represent the large “wow” benefits that are obvious there are still things to consider on a smaller scale that can be seen as just as beneficial:
- Lower real estate costs due to lower space needs
- Lower power costs from less internal employees
- Less employee sick days
- More innovative thinking
- More accepted autonomy and responsibility
The list can go on and on. What is crucial to the success of a remotely working staff is a communicative and attentive management structure, excellent employee tracking and delegation and top down direction and guidance. But those are qualities every successful company possesses. Might as well reap the benefits remote work can provide along the way.