Working From Home - Good Idea or Bad Idea for the Employer

August 9, 2012

Is it a good idea for employers to allow their staff to work from home? A lot of thought and discussion has gone into this question. As we discussed in the July 13 blog, a great emphasis is put on “work-life balance”. More and more employees and their employers understand that there must be balance to create an engaged, happy and productive workforce.  In addition to this, the number of U.S.  households with both parents working has increased from 25% in 1968 to 48% in 2008.

Working from home (WFH) is a common practice and is becoming more prevalent. 10% of the U.S. workforce reports working from home at least one day per week. WFH has doubled from 2.3% of the workforce in 1980 to 4.3% in 2010 and home-based workers are engaged in many occupations.

 A recent Stanford study sheds new light on the subject of working from home. “Does Working From Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment” is a study published in July 2012. This large study of working from home was conducted on CTrip, a NASDAQ listed Chinese company based in Shanghai.

This call center study was comprised of a control group (working from the office only) and a treatment group (working 4 days from home and 1 day from the office).

  • 13% increase in productivity from the treatment (work from home) group
  • Substantially higher satisfaction and psychological attitude scores from the treatment group
  • Job attrition rates from the treatment group were 50% lower than the control group
  • Office cost savings with treatment group

As a result of the study, this 13K employee company rolled out a work from home program to all employees.

But here is the really interesting part, after the 9 month experiment, almost half of the treatment group decided to go BACK to the office. Two thirds of the control group, after being offered the chance to work from home, decided to keep working from the office.


Loneliness was the primary reason most employees chose to work from the office. What they found in the study was employees wanted the CHOICE to work from home or from the office. Productivity increased in both areas after the employees were offered a choice. This is a very interesting study and we will explore why being offered was so impactful in upcoming blogs. We will also discuss specific examples of how and why WFH programs are successful or failures.

We encourage anyone interested in this subject to read the report. As always, we encourage feedback and comments.

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