Hybrid work is the future. Studies are showing that since COVID-19 (and enforced full-time working from home for previously office-based employees), those who can work remotely are keen to continue to do so, at least part of the week.
While many employees are keen on hybrid work, some employers are less excited, citing productivity concerns. This argument has been made by the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon, and mostly recently, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group.
But a study by Stanford University researcher Nick Bloom showed that hybrid work can actually have a positive impact on productivity and performance.
Bloom and his colleagues conducted a randomized trial with Trip.com for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Trip.com is a global travel tech company headquartered in Singapore and listed on NASDAQ. It decided to study the impact of working from home two days a week, versus working from the office full time, on more than 1,600 of its employees working in engineering, marketing and finance.
The six-months of research found that self-reported productivity increased 1.8% for the hybrid group.
In addition, the trial noted that working from home didn’t impact their performance rating or their opportunities for promotions. This suggests that proximity bias (where employees working from home are out of sight, out of mind, and therefore overlooked for promotions and pay rises) was not at play for Trip.com.
New RCT on 1612 employees, finding hybrid #WFH
1) Reduced quit rates by 1/3
2) Shifted hours from WFH days to office days & weekends
3) Increased messaging and video calls (even in the office)
4) Generated a small productivity increase
— Nick Bloom (@I_Am_NickBloom) July 25, 2022
Bloom’s study also found that while employees worked 80 minutes less on the two days they worked from home, they actually worked longer hours on their office days, and were more likely to work on weekends than the control group who exclusively worked in the office.
The hybrid group were logging on and working from home on weekends, as well as in the evenings of the days they had been in the office.
This is proven by them who sending more messages outside of the core working hours of nine to five – this growth of asynchronous communication has been identified in previous studies on the benefits of hybrid and remote work.
Bloom’s study concluded that while the hybrid group may be working fewer hours since their performance and productivity was higher than the office-only group, they were likely working more efficiently per hour.
Hybrid work and attrition
The Trip.com study identified that hybrid work is not only a net positive for productivity, but also for job satisfaction and attrition rates.
The six-month study found that hybrid work reduced the attrition rate at Trip.com by 35%. The attrition rate for the group who worked from home two days a week over the six months was 4.1%, whereas it was 7.2% for the control group who worked in the office full time.
The hybrid group’s self-reported work satisfaction scores also went up, as did the likelihood that they would recommend the employer to friends.
The research concluded: “Overall [the data] highlights how hybrid-WFH is often beneficial for both employees and firms but is usually underappreciated in advance.
“This was a common experience in the US and Europe during the pandemic when working from home went from being rare to mainstream and is now a permanent feature for most graduate employees”.
As a result of the trial and the clear benefits it had for employees and the employer, Trip.com decided to extend the two days of working from home a week to its entire 35,000 employee base. Should you follow suit?
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