Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment

Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment

By
Nicholas A. Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts, Zhichun Jenny Ying
The Quarterly Journal of Economics. February
2015, Vol. 130, Issue 1, Pages 165-218

A rising share of employees now regularly engage in working from home (WFH), but there are concerns this can lead to “shirking from home.” We report the results of a WFH experiment at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency. Call center employees who volunteered to WFH were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for nine months. Home working led to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and their attrition rate halved, but their promotion rate conditional on performance fell. Due to the success of the experiment, Ctrip rolled out the option to WFH to the whole firm and allowed the experimental employees to reselect between the home and office. Interestingly, over half of them switched, which led to the gains from WFH almost doubling to 22%. This highlights the benefits of learning and selection effects when adopting modern management practices like WFH.