Telecommuters Are More Productive, Study Says

A recent study found higher productivity and job satisfaction among people who work remotely compared with office workers. But what are the costs of working virtually?

A new study backed by researchers at Stanford University reports that teleworkers get more done during the workday than their cubicle cohorts.

Some people think that working from home means there are too many distractions and work won’t get done. But we’ve found it to be exactly the opposite.

According to the study, “Does Working From Home Work? Evidence From a Chinese Experiment,” people who worked from a quiet room in their home produced more work per minute, worked more minutes in a shift, and took fewer breaks and sick days than those doing the same job in an office. The study participants, who work at a Chinese call center, also reported higher levels of job satisfaction and were 50 percent less likely to quit than their counterparts who worked from the corporate office.

This finding is particularly relevant to associations, especially small to midsize organizations, which often have staff operating on a virtual basis.

“Some people think that working from home means there are too many distractions and work won’t get done,” said Kelly Germain, communications and membership director at the Giant Screen Cinema Association, which has two full-time staff members who both telecommute. “But we’ve found it to be exactly the opposite. Working from home means that you’re always ‘on.’ The office is just a few steps away, day or night, weekday or weekend. I’d say we’re 125 percent more productive with telecommuting.”

Depending on the organization, however, working from home may not be the best option.

Jay Karen, president and CEO of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), said that after his association went completely virtual in 2009, the savings on office rent and increased worker productivity did not outweigh the need for in-person collaboration.

“I really felt that we did lose … the group dynamics and the organic learning and the organic work that gets done just from physically being around each other,” Karen says.

To bring back the benefits of collaborative thinking and higher productivity, PAII switched to a hybrid model where staff members come into the office three days a week and can work from home two days a week.

“While [staff] might be able to get tasks done better alone in their own house, I think collectively we’re able to get more done when we’re around each other,” Karen says.

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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