Hybrid schedule more beneficial than fully in-office work: Study

Story at a glance

  • A new study recently published in the scientific journal Nature found that hybrid work models with a work-from-home option make employees happier.

  • The study also found that employees who work from home are not any less productive than those who work in office.

  • The study comes at a time when companies are reconsidering their stances on remote work and calling workers back to offices.

Remote work has become the norm for millions of white-collar workers in the United States after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered offices four years ago.

But employers have begun asking workers to return to physical offices amid fears that remote and hybrid work reduces productivity.

A study recently published in the scientific journal Nature suggests that the hybrid model makes workers happier, less likely to quit and has no impact on productivity.

Stanford University economics professor Nick Bloom and colleagues came to this conclusion after investigating the effects of hybrid working on 1,612 employees at Trip.com, a global travel agent site based in Shanghai.

Researchers surveyed the Trip.com employees who all worked in engineering, marketing and finance in the company’s airfare and IT divisions and were surveyed between 2021 and 2022.

They found the company’s hybrid work schedule improved job satisfaction and decreased quit rates by 33 percent.

Quit rates fell particularly sharply among non-managers, female employees and those with long commutes, according to the study.

The study also found that employees working in-office or in a hybrid model did not experience a notable difference in performance reviews or in promotions between the two years.

“This is an important result given the evidence that fully remote working can damage employee development and promotions,” the study reads.

And workers had the same productivity rates regardless of whether they worked in-office or at home under the hybrid model.

Researchers determined employee productivity in two ways. First, they analyzed scores workers received in categories like innovation, leadership, development and execution of projects in performance reviews.

They found no difference in the reviews among employees who worked solely in the office and those that were hybrid.

Secondly, researchers analyzed data on lines of code uploaded every day by computer engineers.

“For this ‘lines of code submitted’ measure, we found no difference between employees in the control and treatment groups,” the study reads.

Employees that took part in the research were polled twice on their ideas about how working from home impacted productivity. The first time was when executives first decided to experiment with a hybrid model in 2021 and the second at the end of the researcher’s time analyzing worker productivity in 2022.

Bloom and his colleagues found that the experience of hybrid working led to a “small improvement” in average employee beliefs about the productivity impact of hybrid working.

“This could be because hybrid WFH saves employees commuting time and is less physically tiring, and, with intermittent breaks between group time and quiet individual time, can improve performance,” the study reads.

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