The usual workplace is often depicted as having an office or a cubicle, with a desk in a well organized workspace. That’s what you wake up and say you’re going to work, at least. Have you thought of having the same thing at home, and yeah, work at home? It seems COVID-19 has made this scenario a reality, however, office space in most major cities is growing at an accelerated pace. And coupled with the pandemic, working from home is starting to look more appealing to most companies. Fortunately enough, there’s even a prior research to back this up!
Related media: Go Ahead, Tell Your Boss You Are Working From Home | Nicholas Bloom | TEDxStanford
Do You Have To Go To Work?
For a case study, let’s take China Trip (CTrip), for instance. It’s a Chinese travel agency based in Shanghai — the most expensive Chinese city in mainland China. The company was spending a lot more of it’s budget on office space, it’s workforce was ever increasing; soon enough, it would need to move to even more expensive offices. So the CEO did what any entrepreneur would do: test and see if working from home would be efficient.
For such a survey, he teamed up with Stanford economists and conducted a nine-month work-from-home study on a 249-group of it’s call centre employees. The researchers group all employees whose birthdays fell on even-numbered days into the “work-from-home” group; and those whose birthdays fell on odd-numbered days still had to work at the office. (Try telling your boss to do as such!).
For one day a week, all employees did work at the office. The management would then compare the productivity of the two groups, hoping that the “work-from-home” team would back slide. Instead, they found counter to what they had anticipated — the work-from-home team’s productivity actually increased by 13 percent. If that sounds insignificant, its because they worked barely a whole day more per week than their counterparts.
I’m Working From Home
Moreover, the work-from-homers really did quit their jobs, at half the rate of office workers. What this means is that, CTrip managers devoted less time to it’s employee recruitment and more time to internal affairs. That’s what happened. In general, and during the study, CTrip increased it’s profits by $2,000 per each employee that worked from home. The company was thoroughly impressed with the study, so they gave employees the option to choose to either work from home or at the office — and ever since, productivity has increased.
This certainly doesn’t mean that working from home is going away. Enter COVID-19 (more on that later). But working from home isn’t for everyone. Its more likely going to make you feel isolated, or not having enough space at home for workspace. You can even akin to the three perils of working from home: the bed, the fridge, and the TV, according to the study’s led author Nicholas Bloom.
On the contrary, working from home isn’t ideal for every job, as some jobs require a constant face-to-face interaction and can’t be operated remotely. Jobs as such have significantly suffered during the pandemic, putting many industries and workers out of business. For instance, restaurants, shopping malls, saloons and gyms all had to close due to the pandemic. Some jobs also render fuzzier productivity metrics which makes it difficult for business managers to oversee employees remotely.
Should We Quit The Office?
Not really! But it seems the rise of the pandemic has made working from home the norm of the day. Counterintuitively, there are definitely some perks to working from home that the survey found. First of all, it cuts down commuting. The average person spends an average of 26.1 minutes commuting from home to the office. This adds up to roughly 17.4 hours of commuting per month. This has (and during this pandemic) cut down carbon emissions from vehicular traffic by a whopping margin.
At CTrip, the work-from-home team had substantially fewer sick days than their counterparts at the office. Proven that it’s a lot more easier to concentrate and stay focused at home than at work. Least we forget, once at the office, you’ll get distracted by your coworkers, a few chit-chats here and there — what Bloom calls “cake in the break room” effect. Kinda! But to wrap it up, working from home hasn’t boosted productivity as compared with the pre-pandemic era.
The emerging trend might soon be for companies that operate online, whereas businesses that focus on manufacturing and client-customer relations will still need their offices. For instance, here at The Factionary, our employees have ever been working from home since we started as a startup in 2019. And we’ve been a remote company not because of the pandemic, but working from home is kinda cool, to be honest. Truth is, that’s the founder’s original idea, creating a “work-from-home” company. He hated offices.
This article was originally written in 2019, but was revised for publication due to changes and effects from the pandemic.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, Jun 23, 2019.