As a Winter Storm Juno ravages the Northeast, many employees are skipping their daily commutes and office 9-to-5, and instead getting comfortable with their living rooms and laptops.
This remote work may be something we should be doing more of, according to two new studies. Working from home can be good for your health and productivity. Not only did people who worked from home report greater work satisfaction and less "work exhaustion," they also got better sleep. Separately, researchers found that the highest performing workers were the most likely to cultivate and excel in a "WFH" environment.
Researchers from Stanford University recently conducted a study on 255 employees of a large Chinese travel agency, all of whom had been employed with the agency for at least six months. Half of the employees worked from home for a period of nine months, while the other half of the employees acted as a control group, and continued to work out of the office. Both group worked the same shifts at the same time.
While the performance of the group that stayed in the office remained stable, the performance of the work from home group increased by 13 percent, as measured by their sales rate and interactions with customers. They were also more productive per minute. The researchers cited less noise distraction, fewer breaks and fewer sick days as some possible reasons for the boosts in productivity, Harvard Business Review reported.
But they found something else that was interesting. After the test period was over, the employees were given the choice whether to continue working from home or to return to the office. Roughly half the work-from-homers decided to return the office, and three-quarters of the group who remained in the office decided to stay there -- and typically, it was the highest-performing employees who chose to work from home, likely because they were not worried about getting distracted.
"Our advice is that firms — at the very least — ought to be open to employees working from home occasionally, to allow them to focus on individual projects and tasks," the study's authors wrote in Harvard Business Review.
Another way that working from home may improve employee productivity and satisfaction is by improving sleep quality, according to an unrelated new study. Research conducted on nearly 500 workers found that employees with a more flexible work schedule are less sleep-deficient than those with less control over their time.
The study, recently published in the journal Sleep Health, found that employees who were able to decide when and where they work enjoyed an improved quality and quantity of sleep.
"Work can be a calling and inspirational, as well as a paycheck, but work should not be detrimental to health," one of the study's authors, Orfeu M. Buxton, said in a statement. "It is possible to mitigate some of the deleterious effects of work by reducing work-family conflict and improving sleep."
Some previous research has supported these findings. A 2007 meta-analysis of 46 studies found that working remotely improved productivity by both objective measures and supervisor evaluations. Remote work was also found to reduce stress and increase job satisfaction, but on the negative side, was correlated with a lower quality of relationships with co-workers.
A 2014 University of Calgary study also found that when it comes to work-from-home productivity, personality matters. Workers who were honest, conscientious and satisfied with their jobs were productive at home, while (unsurprisingly), workers who had a tendency to procrastinate were less productive at home.