Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment

41 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2013 Last revised: 8 Oct 2014

Nicholas Bloom

Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Joseph Beaulieu

affiliation not provided to SSRN

James Liang

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR)

Donald John Roberts

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Zhichun Ying

Stanford University

Date Written: March 2013

Abstract

About 10% of US employees now regularly work 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 to work from home or in the office for 9 months. Home working led to a 13% performance increase, of which about 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction and experienced less turnover, 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 re-select between the home or 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.

Suggested Citation

Bloom, Nicholas and Beaulieu, Joseph and Liang, James and Roberts, Donald John and Ying, Zhichun, Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment (March 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18871. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2230761

Nicholas Bloom (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building, Room 231
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
650-725-7836 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://economics.stanford.edu/faculty/bloom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Joseph Beaulieu

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

James Liang

Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) ( email )

579 Serra Mall at Galvez St.
Stanford, CA 94305-6015
United States

Donald John Roberts

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-723-9345 (Phone)
650-725-0468 (Fax)

Zhichun Ying

Stanford University ( email )

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