Can working from home make you a more productive employee?
As technology improves to better facilitate remote work and connect employees in different locations, we’re starting to see reports of happier, more productive employees — working from home.
For example, of the 39% of people surveyed who said they work remotely at least once a month, 77% reported increased productivity, according to a 2014 ConnectSolutions survey.
Should We All Work From Home, Then?
While we agree this statistic points to an interesting trend, we do acknowledge issues with the study.
The most important: ConnectSolutions is a private cloud solutions provider, with a clear interest in promoting remote work. So we have to take their findings with a grain of salt.
Also note, this and other studies reporting on work-from-home productivity typically rely on a worker’s report of their own efficiency.
Even ConnectSolutions points out, “Whether remote workers are able to work with greater efficiency off-site or are more motivated to demonstrate off-site effectiveness…” — a crucial distinction.
An employee who enjoys the flexibility of working from home may report higher productivity in the interest of promoting remote work.
Or, it could be that remote workers do, in fact, work harder from home to assuage concerns their employer may have about their productivity while working from home. As remote work days become a more common workplace benefit, might that extra effort subside?
To determine whether working from home is as efficient as workers report, you have to study the actual productivity of a workplace with remote workers.
A study by Stanford University economists did just that.
Their experiment with one company did, indeed, yield higher productivity from work from home employees — almost a full extra workday per week, per employee!
Researchers suggest a work-from-home option for one or two days per week increases employee job satisfaction.
Remote work options attract better employees, which naturally improves the quality — and, therefore, output — of the workforce.
Is Remote Work Right for You?
Whether working remotely can increase your productivity or job satisfaction may always be subjective.
Let’s look at who tends to work from home — and why they might choose to. How do you compare?
Employees who work from home at least one day per week are usually older, with more than half between 35 and 54, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.
Nearly 60% of employees who work from home full time are over 45.
Also, 68% of work-from-home employees are married, compared with just 56% of overall employees.
Younger, unmarried employees, whose social life is more likely to include coworkers, may feel more isolated working from home.
On the other hand, married employees with children more likely enjoy the flexibility to work around their families’ schedules.
Low Wage Earners
Employees who work from home tend to be low earners, but live in high-income households.
Half of employees who work from home full time earn less than $25,000 per year.
Forty-eight percent report an annual household income of more than $75,000, with 35% at $100,000 or more.
The cushion of a partner’s salary might make it more feasible to take a flexible position that offers lower pay.
Workers in Service, Sales and Management Positions
The Stanford study followed call center work, which researchers admit is simple to do from home, the Harvard Business Review reports.
Census Bureau data confirms this kind of position is more likely to be done remotely, along with positions in management, business, science and the arts.
Stanford researchers suspect we wouldn’t see such an increase in productivity for creative work and positions requiring a lot of teamwork.
We do see a clear demand for flexibility in the workplace, though, especially as lifestyles change and roles within families shift.
Work-from-home days may be a smart solution for companies and employees alike. Time — and experience — will tell whether this benefit will stick around.
Your Turn: Do you work from home or think you would if you could? What benefits do you experience working remotely?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more.