A rising share of employees now regularly engage in working 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 either to work from home or in the office for nine months. Home working led to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and their attrition rate halved, 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 reselect between the home and 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.
Individual Employee Performance: Weekly phone calls answered, phone calls answered per minute on the phone, weekly sum of minutes on the phone, overall performance z-score measure. Individual Employee Labor Supply and Quality: Minutes on the phone per day worked, absenteeism, phone calls answered that resulted in orders. Quality, Spillovers: Conversion rates, recording scores. Employees' self-reported Outcomes and Attrition: Satisfaction and attitude survey, rates of attrition. Promotion and Career Concerns: Promotion data.
Highly significant 13% increase in employee performance from WFH; 9% was from employees working more minutes of their shift period and about 4% from higher performance per minute. No negative spillovers onto workers who stayed in the office. Home workers reported substantially higher work satisfaction and psychological attitude scores, and their job attrition rates fell by more than 50%. When the experiment ended and workers were allowed to choose whether to work at home, gains in performance almost doubled.