Letting people work from home saves a lot of energy and keeps people off the roads. However, many still call it "shirking from home" and are not convinced that people who do it are as effective or productive as those who go to the office. Klint Finley at Wired points to a new study done at China's largest travel agency, CTrip. The company was concerned about the high cost of Shanghai real estate and the high attrition rate among its call center workers.
Workers on the same shift with the same manager were broken into two groups, one working in the office and the other at home. The WFH (work from home) group had a 13% increase in performance, 9.5% of which came from working more minutes per hour (fewer breaks and sick days) and the balance from doing more calls per minute, attributed to quieter working conditions. The job attrition rate dropped by half.
The company also calculated that it saved $2,000 per employee in office costs. Surprisingly, when the experiment was over, almost half of those who were working from home in the experiment asked to come back to work in the office; the ones who performed best at home were the ones who preferred to stay at home. Clearly WFH doesn't work for everyone. But giving people the choice of home or office improved everyone's performance.
Link to PDF of study by Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, John Roberts and Zhichun Jenny Ying here