THE 21ST CEN­TURY WORK FORCE

The mod­ern work en­vi­ron­ment has added some new lan­guage in the last few decades. Most of the this lingo refers to the ex­plo­sion of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy in the mod­ern era. How­ever one new phrase that isn’t IT re­lated is ‘work­ing from home’.

Business First - - BUSINESS - Dar­ren Steven­son is the founder and MD of Ex­tend Be­fore and Af­ter School Care

Still not well ac­cepted in a hand­ful of very con­ser­va­tive fields, work­ing from home (WFH) is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity with both em­ploy­ees and em­ploy­ers. Mod­ern busi­ness is mo­bile and out­come fo­cused. So much so that re­searchers are now start­ing to closely ex­am­ine the im­pact of this 21st cen­tury work phe­nom­e­non.

In a 2014 study out of Stan­ford Univer­sity in the United States, Ni­cholas Bloom and as­so­ci­ates an­a­lysed data col­lected from a Work­ing From Home (WFH) trial in­volv­ing 249 call cen­tre em­ploy­ees in a large travel agency.

The study found an over­all 13% in­crease in per­for­mance in those who worked from home. Per­for­mance was mea­sured in key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tor out­comes such as fewer sick days, larger vol­ume of calls logged (40 more phone calls an­swered per per­son per week in the WFH study group), and more ef­fi­cient call tim­ing per call.

In­ter­est­ingly, the WFH study group worked 9.2% more min­utes per day de­spite hav­ing the same shift hours as the of­fice based con­trol group. This was di­rectly at­trib­uted to the WFH study group tak­ing shorter breaks than the of­fice based con­trol group.

Staff in the WFH study group were asked why they thought their per­for­mance had in­creased. They re­ported a qui­eter work­ing en­vi­ron­ment to bet­ter con­cen­trate and hear cus­tomers more clearly on the phone. They also re­ported con­ve­nient ac­cess to lunch, cof­fee and tea partly ex­plain­ing the shorter breaks. Also, WFH study em­ploy­ees felt more pos­i­tive about the com­pany and hence more mo­ti­vated. And they re­ported they can still work at home when they don’t feel well enough to work in the of­fice, which ex­plains lower sick days in the study group.

The study also iden­ti­fied a greater work sat­is­fac­tion mea­sured by psy­cho­log­i­cal at­ti­tude scores. This pos­i­tive at­ti­tude partly at­trib­uted to the lower at­tri­tion rates recorded in the WFH study group com­pared to their of­fice based coun­ter­parts, recorded as a 50% de­crease with an at­tri­tion rate of 17% in the WFH study group com­pared to 35% for the of­fice based con­trols.

But work­ing from home is not with­out its chal­lenges.

In­ter­est­ingly, 23% of peo­ple in the WFH study group re­ported that they

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