Working From Home

Working at home is interesting. From the public view, fewer people travelling at rush hour is a good thing - less congestion and pollution, and less demand for higher capacity roads.

From the workers perspective there are savings in time and cost. The hassle of long commute times and the resultant hassle is eliminated. But it can be a bit lonely.  And out of sight can equal out of mind - if you do not have face time with your boss you may lose out on promotions and plum assignments. And there is the concern that your coworkers in the office may be envious of you and gossip about your "shirking from home."

From the employers perspective there may be savings in office expense. Smaller offices and lower utility costs may result. 

Our  Illinois Home Office
Sales persons and consultants find substantial value in home work. My wife and partner, Beth Ruyle, worked for a consulting firm that was over one hour away. Since she was on the road a great deal it made sense to drive directly to the clients office and complete her day in the home office. 

Our Florida Home Office
I have worked as a self employed city planning consultant for many years.  My home office has always been my main office.  I enjoyed this - my commute time was zero unless I made coffee on the way to work.  And I work long and odd hours - having the home office facilitated that.  I am writing this at 6:30 am. But it is easy to procrastinate when working from home. And employers will always be concerned about shirking at home.

Working from home works best with people who's output can be measured.  The employer knows how effective  salespersons are by their volume of sales - if they are matching or outperforming their office based peers, then working from home is a success. But the output of many jobs are much harder to measure. 

Technology companies have been leaders in permitting and even encouraging working from home.  Computers and high speed internet have made working from home much easier.

But Yahoo famously is cutting back on home offices. The new CEO obviously believes that productivity of employees is less when they do not work in the office.

The question is of course do employees accomplish more or less when working from home?  We now have some evidence.


"The frequency of working from home has been rising rapidly in the US, with over 10% of the workforce now regularly work from home. But there is skepticism over the effectiveness of this, highlighted by phrases like “shirking from home”. We report the results of the first randomized experiment on home-working in a 13,000 employee NASDAQ listed Chinese firm. Call center employees who volunteered to work from home were randomized by even/odd birth-date in a 9-month experiment of working at home or in the office." 

"We find a 12% increase in performance from home-working, of which 8.5% is from working more minutes of per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days) and 3.5% from higher performance per minute (quieter working environment). We find no negative spillovers onto workers left in the office. Home workers also reported substantially higher work satisfaction and psychological attitude scores, and their job attrition rates fell by 50%. "

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