An experiment in a Chinese business with sixteen thousand employees sheds light on the advantages of telecommuting. Here are the study’s highlights and an analysis by a telecommuting expert.
According to a survey by the Bank of Montreal in 2013, telecommuting was offered by twenty-three percent of Canadian employers. On one hand, employers fear slacking—synonymous with a decrease in output—from their employees. While on the other hand, employees see telecommuting as a means of reducing transportation and balancing their work and family lives.
Settling The Debate
In order to resolve the debate—American researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) conducted a comparative study inside Ctrip, a Chinese business, with sixteen thousand employees listed on the stock exchange. Five hundred and three employees were drawn from the company’s call centre and formed into two equal groups by the scientists.
They then sent half home and kept the other half at work for a duration of nine months. There were no changes to either of their respective workloads or tools, only the location.
The results from analyzing the data on each of the employees’ respective performance, was an observed increase in the telecommuting group’s output by 13% and their retention rate by 50%. They also reported feeling more satisfied and less exhausted by their work. For their part, the performance of the group confined at the office remained unchanged.
Impressed, Ctrip’s management opened up the possibility of telecommuting to their call centre employees. Surprisingly, many telecommuters deliberately chose to return to the office and only a small number of the employees, confined at the office chose home. According to researchers the reason was because of the solitude brought about by telecommuting.
Joëlle Vincent, Cofounder of ViaConseil: a human resources firm with six telecommuting employees, is not surprised by these results. “Telecommuting is not for everyone. Knowing how to live with less social contact is a must,” she explains, “If we’re dependant on coffee machine conversations, it’s not for us!”
Additionally, work in pyjamas should be managed well in order to maximize efficiency. “Expectations need to be clarified, and duties and tasks should be put down to paper as a policy.” the expert warns, “Furthermore, we avoid offering the option too quickly to new employees who are not already immersed in the organization’s culture.” For example, in a study from NBER, only employees having six months or more experience are selected for telecommuting.
Despite the risks, telecommuting has countless advantages. “Improved productivity, diminished absenteeism (and presenteeism), and we attract candidates—mainly the younger generation—for whom this practice is inescapable.” Concludes Vincent.