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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Work From Home People Earn More, Quit Less, and Are Happier Than Their Office-bound Counterparts ( 217

An anonymous reader shares a report: Working from home gets a bad rap. Google the phrase and examine the results -- you'll see scams or low-level jobs, followed by links calling out "legitimate" virtual jobs. But Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom says requiring employees to be in the office is an outdated work tradition, set up during the Industrial Revolution. Such inflexibility ignores today's sophisticated communications methods and long commutes, and actually hurts firms and employees. "Working from home is a future-looking technology," Bloom told an audience during a conference, which took place in April. "I think it has enormous potential." To test his claim, Bloom studied China's largest travel agency, Ctrip. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion. The company's leaders -- conscious of how expensive real estate is in Shanghai -- were interested in the impact of working from home. Could they continue to grow while avoiding exorbitant office space costs? They solicited worker volunteers for a study in which half worked from home for nine months, coming into the office one day a week, and half worked only from the office. Bloom tracked these two groups for about two years. The results? "We found massive, massive improvement in performance -- a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home," Bloom says.
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Work From Home People Earn More, Quit Less, and Are Happier Than Their Office-bound Counterparts

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  • I need interaction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lucas123 ( 935744 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:19AM (#54808199) Homepage
    At my job, I can work from home whenever I want, and several other co-workers do, but I choose to go into the office because the atmosphere is more conducive to getting work done. I can bounce ideas off the people around me, I'm not distracted by household events or pets and there's more of a sense of urgency for completing tasks, which helps me focus better.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:25AM (#54808269)

      Yet your co-workers may want you to work from home so that you quit distracting them.

      • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @11:37AM (#54808881)
        I"d mod this up but I already commented. Guys like this are exactly why I like to work from home. Some people are the ones that have to go to other people, and some people are the ones that do the work and help others do their work at the same time. I'm the latter, so the more people must go through instant messaging to get to me, the more control I have over my day.
      • by asylumx ( 881307 )
        They why wouldn't *they* work from home?
      • Depends on the type of work. Work from home is a great idea if you work on isolated tasks. Few problems are like that and if they are a regular part of your work I suggest you reskill as you'll be next to be replaced by someone speaking Panjabi.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Indeed. These "idea-bouncers" are incredibly annoying. Sure, occasionally you can do a meeting especially for this, but otherwise this is just a disruption. I avoid working at customer sites whenever possible, and when I am not there, I work from home. I think the 13% productivity increase is on the low side. For the work I do (IT Security Consulting and some related engineering), it is more like 100% more productivity, and I am not the only one at my company that makes that experience. Of course, we have a

    • Might be conducive to you, but you are distracting others from their work when you interrupt them with your "bouncing".

      • TBH I think both are right. We need interaction - sometimes, and we also need the opportunity to hide and avoid distractions when we're working on something specific. I'd like to see businesses move to a more hybrid model, with say one day a week at the office, three days working-from-home.

        (If anyone is saying "Surely four days working-from-home", well, I'd also like to see a four day week. And I can see this model actually helping with that - less travel means more time to work, and the balance can prob

        • Agreed, but the method in which you interact is key. I have also interrupted said "bouncer" stating "Could I get back to you" as well as participated when interrupted. It depends on the circumstance.

          I used to work for a company that had a 4 day work week back in late 1990's, it kind of went like this:

          Old CEO: "We need new talent, offer a four day work week"

          New Employees: YAY!

          New CEO: "Where is everyone on a Friday morning?"

          Old Employees: "Four day work week"

          You see where this is going?

  • Kids (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:19AM (#54808205)

    Having kids or a nagging wife means you'd want to waste that 1h30m commuting, sit in a cubicle then waste another 1h30m coming back. For the rest of us, though, extra three hours of productivity or leisure makes such a massive difference that it's hard to find enough downsides.

    Some of us go way over the edge -- especially if you can train your boss that's it ok to call you at 4am rather than at the crack of noon; those of us do work hard to maintain the public opinion on programmers :).

    But if you require being on the clock, the employeer can get the best of both worlds for any child-less employee.

    • Re:Kids (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:25AM (#54808263)

      Having kids or a nagging wife means you'd want to waste that 1h30m commuting, sit in a cubicle then waste another 1h30m coming back.

      ...bold mine.

      Why is "wife" associated with "nagging" more often than not? In my case, I find that I associate "wife" with the words "loving & caring."

      I guess I am lucky, no?

      • if she truly cared about you she'd nag you sometimes, because you have shortcomings that need external pushing

      • Why is "wife" associated with "nagging" more often than not? In my case, I find that I associate "wife" with the words "loving & caring."

        Just wait a few months (or years if you're really lucky), and then you'll see.

        And with kids, the wait time is negative.

        • Just wait a few months (or years if you're really lucky), and then you'll see.

          How long precisely is one supposed to wait before it becomes apparent? A few years? Does 20 count as a few?

        • Re:Kids (Score:5, Insightful)

          by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @12:21PM (#54809303) Homepage Journal

          It sounds like you're in a bad relationship. This is not normal, it is not normal to think "Nagging" when you think of your spouse. I'm not going to suggest you immediately leave her, but you probably need to sit down with her and discuss where your relationship is going.

          I'm sorry you're in such a horrible relationship and I hope you can both take the steps needed to make it work.

      • This. If I didn't want my wife and family around I wouldn't have married my wife and start a family.
        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          I think you're pushing a false dichotomy here. One can want the family around *some* of the time, but not *all* of the time. Or want them around most of the time, but not when you're working or really trying to focus. I can both love my kids and also state factually that they're not conducive to concentrating on a project.

          • Personally I just go into a room, close the door, and tell them to leave me alone. It's still nicer knowing they are close by and I can take my breaks with them etc.
            • Personally I just go into a room, close the door, and tell them to leave me alone.

              That starts being possible only once the kids go into late teens, and usually not even then.

      • Why is "wife" associated with "nagging" more often than not? In my case, I find that I associate "wife" with the words "loving & caring."
        I guess I am lucky, no?

        You're lucky. There's a good reason so many people associate "wife" with "nagging". It's probably also not a coincidence that the divorce rate is higher than ever and the marriage rate continues to drop.

        If you personally associate "wife" with "loving & caring" because of ongoing personal experience, count your lucky stars.

        Also, to be fair,

        • ...The only reason the marriage rate was so much higher in decades past (and the divorce rate lower) was because of social pressure

          I beg to differ on this.

          As an individual that has visited many parts of the world, I find that many in the so called 3rd world see a union between a man and a woman differently.

          Whereas cash is an incentive, there's more "real" love for a partner. It isn't the "" and "stuff" attitude I have seen in the west.

          A man may have very little but the woman will stick around. She will do chores "for him", including cooking, washing, bearing kids and so much. This includes "respecting" in-laws.

          In the west, mon

          • That's not "real love", that's subservience. What you're describing is more primitive cultures where women were 2nd-class citizens and without a husband, basically couldn't survive, or at least would be social outcasts. That's the cost of what you advocate: a miserable existence for half the population. It works out OK for some lucky women who manage to find a decent husband, but for those who get stuck with an abusive one, an uncaring one, or just an incompatible one, it's hell. That's why the divorce

      • relationships are hard and most folks don't have enough money to make it work, so they're at each other's throats a lot. Heck, I've been on this earth 4 decades and every 10 of them like clockwork the asshats that run the show have tanked the economy, gotten off scott free and left the working stiffs high and dry. Given what most folks go through every 10 years it's no wonder they fight.
    • You mentioned something extremely important - how many hours do we work? Do companies now expect 12 hours a day now that some people no longer have a long commute?

  • It's almost like they're mainly interested in exploiting workers into replacement as fast as possible. Weird.
    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:29AM (#54808307)
      A lot of companies go through a cycle of allowing or prohibiting work at home. I think that the only real reason they do it is so they can get people to quit so they don't need to fire them and pay any severance. If you eventually need to downsize a division, institute a work from home and then retract it in two years and you'll probably get at least a third to leave since they've built their life around working from home and don't want to change.
  • by spaceman375 ( 780812 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:22AM (#54808245)

    This has got to be very culturally sensitive. There's lots of social pressures in china that take time and energy away from just plain working. These go away somewhat when you can relax in your own home. Other countries with a more lax work ethic won't fare so well. I'm sure many people will try to game their employers in places with higher rates of corruption in general.
          I also doubt this will work as well in places like Brazil, where work is very much a social experience. Being socially active with your co-workers is more than just prevalent; it's the norm. Many people won't give up that interaction. Not to mention an air-conditioned office beats an uncooled home.

    • Not to mention an air-conditioned office beats an uncooled home.

      Err...why would you not have A/C in your home?

      • Not to mention an air-conditioned office beats an uncooled home.

        Err...why would you not have A/C in your home?

        A lot of homes in Europe don't have air conditioning. The house I grew up in in England was well over 100 years old and it didn't have any air-conditioning. In truth, it only really would have been useful a few weeks out of the year. Of course, summers are warmer in England than they were in the 80's now so the number of weeks it would be useful have surely gone up.

      • Not to mention an air-conditioned office beats an uncooled home.

        Err...why would you not have A/C in your home?

        My previous house didn't have central A/C. The 100 y/o furnace wasn't compatible with it, and it would have cost big $$$$ to rip it out and replace with something newer.

        OTOH, lack of A/C is a significant reason that that house is "previous".

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

        Err...why would you not have A/C in your home?

        Colorado weather, for one. It can get hot during the day, but it always cools off at night. Why spend all day paying to keep a house cool if you're going to get it for free as soon as the sun sets? My experience is most of the houses in the state don't have it.

        Of course it makes more sense because I'm out of the house for a majority of the warmest hours. If I worked from home all the time, I'd have to reconsider cooling.

        • My experience is most of the houses in the state don't have it.

          Wow..I've never lived in a house that didn't have it...even OLD 100+ year old houses, had window units put in.

          Then again, I've lived primarily in the south of the US or out in Arizona....neither place is really livable without AC.

          I can't sleep very well in a place warmer than 71F at night...

      • Plenty of people who have a job are still too poor to afford a/c. Many can't afford the electricity for a fan either. American, and even just plain affluent, ethnocentrism born of ignorance is a sad thing.

      • Because it's Brazil; didn't you read his post?

        Air-conditioned homes aren't that common outside the US.

    • Just writing this message to say that I like your .sig

      On the one hand you take life too seriously, and on the other, you do not take playful existence seriously enough. Seth

  • I would hate to work from home. I like having a clear divide between work and home.

    • by hattig ( 47930 )

      Work from the local pub instead then.

      • Now that is an interesting idea. I have done that from a Starbucks, but a pub sounds more pleasant.

    • Personally, I agree. That said, there are some things you can do.

      If you have space, set up a home office. You might need to figure out how much of an office you need--I know some people who have set aside a room for work, others who have a particular area in the living room or bedroom where they work, and others who are fine with just a particular computer (this is the "work" computer and nothing but "work" happens on it). I've also seen advertisements for "home offices" that people can build in their ba

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Basically what my boss (he is the CEO) did when he got children. Works very well for him.

  • Depends on the job (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:30AM (#54808313) Homepage

    The viability of working from home depends a lot on the job, and on the particular phase of that job.

    Taking my situation as an example: This week, I attended two physical meetings, but otherwise worked from home all week, because (aside from those two meetings), my current work is preparation that I am doing alone. This is great while it lasts, but it will stop in September, it will stop, because I'll be working with other people.

    Some maybe general observations:

    - Complex coordination - working out new ideas, or meeting with several people - just does not work well remotely. Face-to-face is a lot more efficient. In work-at-home phases, I still have 2-3 meetings a week.

    - Even as a total introvert, I recognize that face-time with people is important. I sometimes go into the office for an afternoon "just because".

    - If you are working remotely, it is essential to have appropriate messaging technology. The phone should only be used for urgent stuff, since it interrupts. I get maybe one or two calls per month. Email is king for anything non-urgent. Some sort of simple messaging fits comfortably in the middle: IRC or even SMS.

    - Working from home takes a certain amount of discipline, and sometimes it still doesn't work. Yesterday morning was a disaster: I was interrupted for non-work things a zillion times, and basically lost the entire morning. The flexibility to mix in private things is nice, but sometimes it also sucks - I'll be working on the weekend to make up the lost time.

  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:32AM (#54808331)

    I'm less productive at home.

    Yes, I have the wife and kids- but also at work I have a nice large office that I can keep clean and clutter free- and that really helps me focus and concentrate.

    At home I don't have a proper room set up as an office- we don't have any room spare. So the desk is just in a corner. It's a dumping ground for all sorts of junk. It's cluttered- and because my wife passes through it's not clean (I swear that woman just goes around dropping trash everywhere all day long- I do love her though lol).

    So whereas I'm welcome to work from home occasionally, my house is too small and there's no comfortable spot for me to set up. Also, remote desktop to the office is slow as crap (yes I know other places have better solutions than remote desktop). The office for me is simply more comfortable. When I win the lottery (or the wife finishes college and starts working) and we can get a bigger house I may be able to claim a room that is just for me- and then I may work from home.

    Right now- I hate working from home.

    • by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @11:03AM (#54808581) Homepage Journal

      Right now I'm in a room we didn't get around to refurbishing yet. My desk is a mess, the wallpaper is horrible, and it's generally a bit of a dumping ground in here. I'm fine with it though - when I'm facing the computer, all that stuff behind me doesn't phase me at all.

      However, when we were renovating other bits of the house this room wasn't available, so I used to work in a shared work space in town (maybe 15-20 minutes walk from here). That had all the features you mention - clear, empty, quiet, etc. It also had a kitchenette to go to if you wanted a cuppa (so a handy mental break from your desk). That place cost £25/day for an ad-hoc 'turn up when you like' sort of arrangement. I could have negotiated a lower rate if I committed time. Contrast to £32 return train ticket (which then also consumes another 2 additional hours of travel time, on top of the 20 to get to town), and it's actually a pretty good deal.

      The thing I most appreciate about home working is the lack of commute. Not having to do that saves me time which means I get time to have breakfast and some playtime before bed with the kids. It also saves me a good deal of stress. Not walking to and fro does mean I need to get exercise in other ways though, which can be one of those things you never get around to without some self-discipline.

    • Depending on what I'm doing, my work from home productivity is about the same at home as it is at work.

      The pluses for being in the office are easier access to the rest of the development team (I can go ask them questions without using something like Skype or e-mail), and faster network connectivity to my servers that are in the office. The minuses for being in the office are the constant interruptions (the development team and helpless desk asking me constant questions, far more than I what I ask them), the

    • I'm less productive at home.

      Yes, I have the wife and kids- but also at work I have a nice large office that I can keep clean and clutter free- and that really helps me focus and concentrate.

      That's entirely your own fault. My situation is the exact opposite: I have no wife or kids, and my house is quiet. At work, it's a chaotic, noisy mess. I have no control over my workplace at work since I'm not the boss (and even my boss and his boss have no control over this stuff either, sadly). I'd be far more prod

    • by Wulfson ( 548350 )
      I have similar issues; not enough room, no good place set up, all I definitely believe that the potential top-end of my productivity is lower at home than it is in the office. But! my company bought into the whole open-office thing, and the distractions in the office are non-stop. So, my "realized" productivity at home is actually quite a bit higher than when I'm in the office, despite non-ideal conditions.
  • Survival bias (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:32AM (#54808335)
    Work from home jobs are top tier. That's because you have to be self managed. It's not surprising the do better. They're already in a better position.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Well, yes. It also means that you lose top-tier people when you do not offer the option.

  • by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:34AM (#54808361)
    Been working entirely from home for the past 3ish years, and I absolutely love it. No daily commute, so I don't start the work day already in a bad mood, not to mention the amount of money I save not having to buy gas all the time. Then there's the savings from eating lunch at home every day. It'd take a lot to convince me to go back into the office.
  • by adosch ( 1397357 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @10:48AM (#54808473)

    There's a lot of legitimacy ITFA. I agree WFH get's slandered in quite a few workplaces, but it's definitely NOT future looking technology. I really think a lot of the arguments of working-from-home-again topic revolves around that workplace's culture where it just hasn't caught up and views production, productivity and being productive can only happen behind the 4-walls of the brick-and-mortar.

    Doing 100% WFH I think can be disastrous over time; there are not a plethora of people who are that motivated, self-starters and can prioritize and maintain their own tasks. I have seen a lot of folks just completely abuse WFH and it becomes untouchable privilege, and I think that's partly why the culture reverts back to being seen == getting work done. I hate to say it, but I will say a lot of people who want to WFH aren't viewing that as 'working-from-home' but as part of this entitled errand day or a 'relaxing day off' by doing just enough not to get fired. That's where it goes wrong IMHO. And WFH shouldn't be assumed, it should be earned because it is a privilege; you're not working for you, you're working for your company.

    At the end of the day, I wouldn't go do 100% WFH anymore because I still believe that out of sight == out of mind. And you can have all the tech in the world (e.g. Skype, video/phone conference, yada yada) but it doesn't beat face-to-face relationships over time in the workforce. Let's not forget that there is a human element to all of this; I don't want to be devalued to a e-mail bit bucket who replies "done" back to requests and is nothing more than a chat alias name in a window.

  • "We found massive, massive improvement in performance -- a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home"

    At my wife's company, the work-from-home employees have a higher productivity requirement than the office workers. It's a pain because the kind of work she does probably doesn't lend itself as well to the performance gains seen at other places. She's personally so much more productive than average that it doesn't matter to her, but other employees have struggled with it. She's also a tota

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      So they require higher productivity in exchange for not having to provide office-space? That is kind of backwards...

  • As in, companies usually only let you do this if you are a better employee. Higher level office workers and sales jobs are prime examples, not ditch diggers.

    In other words, they are selected for the people most likely to earn more and be happier.

    • I've read TFA and I can't see where it even says the employees earn more. The closest is this quote:

      The company reported that it made about $2,000 more profit per person at home

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @11:10AM (#54808645) Homepage Journal

    Been telecommuting since about 2008.
    Started out one day a week.
    About 2010, went to full-time telecommute.
    I'm the admin for the company's network and have everything set up so that I can do almost everything remotely.
    And, if it comes to the worst, I can drive in for an emergency.

    It's frickin' great!
    The only thing is, you NEED to be able to self-start. Because being at home, there are lots of distractions.

  • I know I would be happier telecommuting if it meant being able to migrate to someplace warm and sunny for the winter months. Being able to enjoy an endless summer would be an immense benefit.
  • I find that working from home is better than the office if you have very strong organization and communication skills. I do it. My managers do it. It works. If the managers and team leads have good communication skills, anyone under them that don't can be kept in line.
  • Lots of people are offered the chance to work from home. Those who are disciplined, and who actually work well and deliver results continue to be employed and allowed to work from home. The slackers get fired, and they find jobs where they need to be monitored constantly. Thus in the end, the sample of people who work from home is biased towards the survivors and it skews the results.
  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @11:47AM (#54808993)

    Personally I love working from home and do it whenever I can. I find that I have less distractions, I don't have to "dress up", and I don't miss the commute one bit. But I know others that don't care for it. Trying to work from the kitchen table with kids running around is no picnic.

    You've got to have, at a minimum, a dedicated office space where you can close the door if necessary. A spare bedroom works just fine. A good headset for conference calls is a must. There is nothing worse than trying to decipher someone on a conference call with a crappy cellphone where every other word cuts out. And the dog is barking and the kids are screaming. When you're on a call, close the door, put on the headset. You will hear others better and they will hear you better.

    Where I work we use Skype for IM, WebEx for video conferencing, and SharePoint for document collaboration. I'm not a huge SharePoint fan but collectively it works. The biggest issue is trust. The way I explain it to my team is that working from home is a perk. You don't have to partake but if you do there are certain expectations. Log on to Skype during business hours and check your email regularly. If you need to step out that's fine, just let me know where you are. Above all - get your shit done.

    If I see a big drop in productivity or get even the slightest inkling that they are goofing off I have a conversation with them and make it clear that it had better stop. If it happens again, work from home is over for that employee. I haven't had a single team member violate the ground rules and our turnover is very low. When you treat people right they are happy and productive. Simple as that.

  • Have been 100% telecommute for the past two years.

    I think it has been a win/win for myself and my Employer. []

  • by Zarhan ( 415465 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @12:26PM (#54809349)

    And I love it. My daily commute is 20 meters from bedroom to study. Well, on some mornings I go drop off my daughter to daycare before starting work, depending on whether it's wife's turn or not.

    I work as a consultant, mostly doing network architecture design, UC and similar stuff. Anyway, the company that actually pays me doesn't care about visiting office - I go there every few months to drop off receipts of travel expenses, attend christmas party and that's that. All other travel is to customer premises.

    There is a weird trend. I've noticed that in how much driving my car gets. When I started; I drove just a bit under 40000km a year. Now I can barely reach 10000km. Gotta love it - less time spent behind the wheel.

    The single biggest reason for this? Skype for Business (Microsoft Lync). These days it's pretty much everywhere. It used to be that I worked a lot from customer sites. Then it changes so that I came to first few meetings with the customers. And these days we do entire projects and sometimes never see "face-to-face" except over videoconferencing. Sales guys still go for actual visits to make the case, but after that it seems that fewer and fewer people care about your physical presence. The only actual work that has been done one site for last few projects has been physical hardware installations.

    One other thing caused by Skype: Meetings *always* start on time. It used to be that if you booked a meeting from 2 PM to 4 PM, what happened was that people arrived at the premises at 2 PM. Then you gathered coffee, then tried to usher everyone to the conference room, set up laptops etc. You get to the real stuff starting at 2:30. Now - even when you are on-site there's *always* someone attending the meeting remotely, and he's already gotten the coffee and is ready to start. This causes the folks to be in the conference room and starting the meeting at 2:05 the latest.

    Heck, I once attended a lecture where a guy was trying to give a presentation on a big overhead projector but it was broken. So, end result was that he just shared his presentation on Skype and everyone in the room just watched it on the laptop. Kind of pointless to attend.

    The only exception to this rule is customers that have strict security requirements and provide no Internet access, but that's more or less understandable.

  • For several years before my retirement we has a widely diverse engineering team. Home base was Berkeley, California, but we had engineers in Seattle, Livermore, CA, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C. and Iowa. One in each remote metro area except two near Chicago.

    We used modern Internet based teleconferencing equipment and every engineer had a desktop system that showed the rest of the group. All were normally muted, but, if an issue arose that required group discussion (or discussion buy a part of the gr

  • Kraft Foods when it was still called that encouraged staff to work from home at least one day a week. After a few months someone in upper management decided that anyone working from home much not be contributing so they laid them all off.
  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Friday July 14, 2017 @03:33PM (#54810863) Homepage Journal

    I did it for 1.5 years as a contractor for Cisco. I have disabilities like impediments, unable to drive, etc. It was perfect for me. I would totally do it again!

Programmers do it bit by bit.