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CentrePiece article
Working or shirking?
Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts and Zhichun Jenny Ying
December 2012
Paper No' CEPCP384:
Full Paper (pdf)

CentrePiece 17 (3) Winter 2012

Tags: working from home; organization; productivity; field experiment; and china

Over 10% of US employees now regularly work from home (WFH), but there is widespread skepticism over its impact highlighted by phrases like “shirking from home”. We report the results of a WFH experiment at Ctrip, a 13,000 employee NASDAQ listed Chinese multinational. Call center employees who volunteered to WFH were randomly assigned to work from home or in the office for 9 months. Work from home led to a 13% performance increase, of which about 9.5% is from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days) and 3.5% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction and their job attrition rate fell by 50%. After the experiment, the firm rolled the program out to all employees, letting them choose home or office working. Interestingly, only half of the volunteer group decided to work at home, with the other half changing their minds in favor of office working. After employees were allowed to choose where to work, the performance impact of WFH more than doubled, highlighting the benefits of choice alongside modern management practices like home working.

This article summarises 'Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment' by Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts and Zhichun Jenny Ying, Centre for Economics Performance Discussion Paper No.1194, March 2013