Flexibility improves productivity but causes “loneliness”, study finds

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Researchers have found that while working from home is highly beneficial for both employers and employees, many workers prefer working in the office.

A study conducted at Stanford University investigated the effects of working from home on over 250 workers at China’s largest travel agency.

The employees selected to work from home were working under otherwise identical conditions to the in-office control group, being given the same computer system, hours and incentives.

While the control group displayed no change in productivity, those who worked at home were 13% more productive.

According to the records kept by Ctrip, the company whose employees participated in the study, much of this increase was due to the home-based employees working more minutes per day.

“The home workers were also more productive per minute, which employees told us [in detailed surveys] was due to the quieter working conditions at home,” the authors told the Harvard Business Review. “The home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and less “work exhaustion” in a psychological attitudes survey.”

They added that they were studying call centre work, which is easily measured and easily performed remotely.

“At home people don’t experience what we call the “cake in the break room” effect,” the authors said. “Offices are actually incredibly distracting places.”

However, researchers emphasised that personality was found to be influential, affecting the way in which workers responded to working conditions.

Employees who performed to a high standard whilst working from home preferred the freedom of being at home, while employees who were less productive worked better in the more controlled environment of the workplace.

After the study, many workers opted to come into work, naming “loneliness” as a motivator for doing so.

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