Stanford University has completed a large study to determine whether telecommuting increases efficiency and satisfaction among employees, among other things. The study looked at a travel agency call center in China with 12,000 employees over a nine-month period. Using employees from the airfare and hotel divisions, 255 employees worked at home four days a week for nine months.
In that time, the researchers found four main results:
1. The performance of the home workers went up dramatically, increasing by 12% over the nine-month experiment. This improvement came mainly from an 8.5% increase in the number of minutes they worked during their shifts (they were logged in to the computer system). This was due to a reduction in breaks and sick days taken by the home workers. The remaining 3.5% improvement was because home workers were more productive per minute worked, due to the quieter working conditions at home.
2. There were no spillovers on to the rest of the group – interestingly, those remaining in the office had no change in performance.
3. Attrition fell sharply among the home workers, dropping by almost 50% versus the control group. Home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and attitudinal survey outcomes.
4. At the end of the experiment the firm was so impressed by the impact of telecommuting that they decided to roll the option out to the entire firm, allowing the treatment and control groups to re-choose their working arrangements.