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Working or shirking from home? - Chris Blattman

Chris Blattman

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Working or shirking from home?

This is not what I would have predicted.

We report the results of the first randomized experiment on home-working in a 13,000 employee NASDAQ listed Chinese firm. C

…We find a 12% increase in performance from home-working, of which 8.5% is from working more minutes of per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days) and 3.5% from higher performance per minute (quieter working environment). We find no negative spillovers onto workers left in the office.

Home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and psychological attitude scores, and their job attrition rates fell by 50%.

I can see this. My personal productivity is enhaced when I can work in my pajamas and eat cereal at any time of day.

See the full paper.

8 Responses

  1. I’ve been working from home (as a lawyer and translator) for several years, and I think I am much more productive. I can pick between productive and unproductive times. When it’s sunny, I don’t need to remain in the office while being distracted by thoughts of a walk, I just get up and go for a walk. I’ll talk to the clients on my mobile and I’ll do the desk work at night.
    Of course, it helps to have a nice place:

  2. I clicked, wondering ‘will I be offended’ by Chris’s side comments? You’re lucky this time. I’ve been working from home for 5 yrs, and while the increased productivity can’t be denied (even in consulting, where billability is the key to survival), I note that there’s no comment on the decrease in social skills. Oatmeal says it best:

    Nevertheless, I’m sending that study to my bosses, maybe I’ll get a bigger monitor out of it.

  3. @dan But it’s a LATE on the ones who wanted to work at home. Treatment effects may be very different for the other workers.

  4. @chrisare They randomized who was to work from home, so this critique doesn’t apply

  5. I wonder about the organisational culture RE ‘Chinese firm’ and how that matters. It also doesn’t seem to say a lot about the quality of work. People work longer and ‘better’-but wasn’t one idea of working from home that you could work normal hours (or even less) and pay more attention to caring for children/relatives etc? In short, how do employees really benefit from home-working?

  6. Chris:
    You need to keep in mind that it’s a task where output is very easily measured. That matters a lot. You could lounge around in your pajamas for a couple of years before anyone noticed your productivity was slipping.

  7. But harder to get out of pajamas and to stop constantly traveling to kitchen to snack.

  8. I haven’t read this, but it would seem like harder working, more productive employees are more likely to be granted the freedom to work from home.

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