The Experiment of Working From Home
In recent years, people have been doing whatever it takes to work from home. It is a booming reality in the tech and startup worlds, and slowly but surely, the trend has invaded other, more traditional fields. While there is lots of upside in working-from-home, like increased productivity that results from avoiding office politics, fewer interruptions and reduced stress associated with a daily commute, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a downside as well, and it relates directly to the absence of physical human interaction.
The idea of working from home sounds exciting — you don’t have to get out of your pajama pants, you have the comfort of your own environment, you can take breaks as you please without explanation, you have your pet and/or loved one(s) nearby. Yet, what happens when these perks become boring and cabin fever sets in?
In the fascinating study “Does Working From Home Work? Evidence From a Chinese Experiment,” a 16,000 employee NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency decided to randomly assign call center employees (who had already volunteered to work from home) to either work in the office or work from home for 9 months. For those who worked from home, there were many positive results that came from this experiment:
13% performance increase (due to working more minutes per shift and taking fewer breaks and sick-days); An increase of 4% in the number of calls handled per minute (attributed to a quieter working environment).
Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction and experienced less turnover.
Despite the good news, including a savings of nearly $2,000 per employee, when given the option to return to the office or to continue working from home, the majority of the study participants chose to head back to the office, citing the loneliness of working alone and lower rates of promotion.
As many companies attempt to figure out what is best for their work environments, Irvine Company’s Vice President of Planning & Design, John Koga, has previously commented on the return to more traditional ways of working. He reflected on the insight that in spite of the pressure on employers to allow their staff to work from home, in actuality, these employees are overwhelmed with choice and don’t thrive on their own.
Embracing traditional ways of working isn’t a rejection of progress, it reflects the opportunity to fine tune what is already successful. With this in mind, Irvine Company’s intention with The Chicago Collection’s workplace communities is to continue providing high-end fitness and dining amenities, hospitality-like social spaces and engaging programming to provide a vibrant workplace that fosters engagement between customers and functions like an authentic, robust community in order to encourage collective engagement and diminish feelings of loneliness within the workplace.