Though workers have been advocating for more flexibility for years, there hasn’t been much business-first data for employees to arm themselves with during the negotiation process. We know that employees with flexibility are happier, more productive, and more loyal—but how much does that impact a company’s bottom line? According to a new study by Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom, flexibility—specifically the ability to work remotely—might be even more beneficial to business than we had even anticipated.
To determine the effects of remote work, Bloom and his co-researchers, James Liang, John Roberts, and Zhichun Jenny Ying, studied Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency. Half of the volunteers for this study worked remotely 4 out of 5 days a week for a total of nine months, while the other half worked solely in the office.
The results were staggering: the group that worked remotely had a “massive” performance improvement of 13%, and resignations among this group dropped by 50%.
According to Bloom, there are two reasons for the uptick in performance.
First, remote workers are more likely to work their full shifts as opposed to office workers who might actually clock fewer hours due to long lunches with co-workers or sitting in traffic. In fact, the average American spends 45 minutes per day commuting to work and 45 minutes commuting back from work. If even a small fraction of the 150 million working Americans were to work from home on a regular basis, Bloom says this would not only save companies and employees a significant amount of money, but it would also help reduce pollution.
Second, Bloom says that remote workers are able to concentrate better since offices can be noisy environments. From Bob’s going away party to the World Cup sweepstakes, there’s always something going on that has the potential to distract workers.
As a result of these findings, Ctrip rolled out a structured work-from-home option to all of their employees, which resulted in the company making $2,000 more in profits per remote employee.
At Werk, we always say that flexibility is the future of work—and Bloom agrees.
“Working from home is a future-looking technology,” he said during a TedxStanford talk back in April. “I think it has enormous potential.”