There have been studies into the benefits of telecommuting before, but they were usually lacking in certain areas, which resulted in the findings being less than scientific (and thus not super-trustworthy). This time a Stanford University study used a Chinese travel agency with over 12,000 employees as its base, and concluded that working remotely actually does noticeably increase performance.
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508 out of 996 employees registered for the study, and were then further divided into two groups: One that worked from home after being confirmed to have an adequate remote working environment, and one that had to continue commuting to work. Tracking then began on both groups, and after just a few weeks, the home group took more calls, logged more hours and were overall just more productive than the other group. They were even happier and quit less often.
After seeing these results, the travel agency expanded the policy to get more people to work from home. However, some employees opted out because they, as Slate pointed out, valued the time they spent socialising with workers. (I can relate to both views, after also working from home for years and years.)
To me, the study’s results might be skewed a little highly toward the benefits of working remotely, seeing as those people who registered for this study were self-selected, meaning that they probably had a natural preference for working from home. But then again, I’m not sure this actually matters. It’s unlikely that people who don’t like working from home would be forced to do so, and if you do like it, you’ll do better anyway (as this study shows). So the takeaway from this experiment — for use in convincing your employers to let you work from home — is that it’s scientifically proven that certain people are more productive working outside of an office.