Policy/Biz

Employees Who Work From Home 'Go Above And Beyond,' Debunking The Myth That They're Less Productive

Woman working from the beach
Your request to work from home is now backed by science. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The next time your boss says working from home will only hurt your productivity, tell him you're going to do it anyway. Just kidding. Don’t tell him that. Ever. But, you can tell them a study from the University of Illinois found the opposite to be true.

“After Yahoo changed its telecommuting policy, this question of, ‘Is telecommuting good for performance?’ came to the fore,” said Ravi S. Gajendran, lead study author and professor of business administration at Illinois, in a press release. “At the time, there was a lot of debate about it, but there was very little evidence available. Well, now we have some evidence that says telecommuters are good performers as well as good coworkers on the job.”

Gajendran and his colleagues developed a theoretical framework that linked working from home, or telecommuting, to the performance of 323 employees and 142 supervisors working in a variety of organizations. They found that those who work from home “feel compelled to go above and beyond to make their work presence more visible,” which causes them to overcompensate and maintain the same level of productivity they exhibit in-office so they don’t lose the opportunity. While the study found those who work from home tended to have a good relationship with their boss, this likeability didn't hinder or hurt performance; it stayed the same.

Interestingly, if an employee did not have a great relationship with their boss, working from home further improved their work performance. “When the employee-employer relationship is strained, and then the boss says, ‘OK, I’m going to allow you to work from home,’ it improves the employee’s performance, possibly because they feel more beholden toward their boss,” Gajendran said.

Employees working from home weren’t only doing more of their work, they were being more helpful to others in the office. This is technically referred to as "organizational citizenship behavior": apparently, another major point for team telecommute (which we think should totally be a thing). In which cause, Gajendran said offering an employee the option to telecommute is “a no-brainer.” That’s not to say every business should allow every employee to telecommute. Having to ask and receive approval is what makes the process special. It's being granted the opportunity that encourages increased work performance and a feeling of gratitude for the organization. If everyone could do it, employees wouldn’t feel that need to work harder.

Scott Boyar, a researcher from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, might agree with Gajendran, having advocated for the option to work from home since it's easier on an employee’s wallet and the environment.

“While there can be distractions at home like kids, animals, TV, and chores, there’s often flexibility to transition among various roles — particularly family — if boundaries can be set with some self-discipline,” Boyar said in a press release. “If there is ability to adjust your schedule around kids, you could begin your work at 6 a.m. while they sleep. Break to get them to school, then go back to working.”

Jonathan Fields, entrepreneur and founder of The Good Life Project, said that getting dressed, setting office hours, and scheduling breaks in the same way you would at an office also helps to achieve a work-life balance right from the comfort of your own couch.

Source: Gajendran R, Harrison D, Delaney-Klinger K. “Are Telecommuters Remotely Good Citizens? Unpacking Telecommuting’s Effects on Performance Via I-Deals and Job Resources.” Personnel Psychology. 2014.

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