Harvard study reveals surprising impacts when employees are allowed to work not just from home, but anywhere
A study found that “work from anywhere” policies increased productivity.
A team from Harvard used 8 years of data from the US Patent & Trademark Office to examine the difference in outcomes between work-from-home (WFH) vs. work-from-anywhere (WFA) programs. Here are the highlights of the 50+ page study
- They confirmed earlier research showing productivity was higher for all remote workers
- The productivity increase was greatest among WFA workers (4.4% percentage points higher than WFH), and lowest among WFH who lived >50 miles from the office (with the productivity increase among those who lived <50 miles from the office falling in between)
- Older WFA workers were more likely to move out of the region (Alexandria) than younger WFA workers, but both groups experienced a reduction in the cost-of-living
- For remote workers whose job required significant interaction with colleagues, having a mandated set of IT tools increased productivity even further (3%)
- There was no decline in quality among either group of remote workers
PTO's remote worker avoided 84 million miles of travel thus reducing emissions by 44k tons
PTO saved $38M in RE
The study valued the productivity from PTO's remote work program at $1.3 billion. It reduced commuter travel by 84M miles and emissions by 44k tons. And it saved the agency $38M in real estate costs.
We all know that people’s wellbeing and performance is affected by various environmental conditions, but we haven’t known to what extent. The Whole Life Performance Plus project (WLP+) explores this in three very different buildings.
The report shares the results of two case studies where more than a year's worth of data was collected through continuous physical monitoring, surveys, and human performance testing.
The human performance results were perhaps the most interesting. Using validated tests (numerical, proofreading, processing speed/attention) as a proxy for performance, the study showed that performance was negatively impacted by high temperatures (particularly over 26C/88F), low humidity (particularly below 40%), and high CO2 concentration (particularly above 1000 ppm).
Interestingly, the link between perceived productivity and the the workplace environment were statistically stronger than the links between measured productivity.
The report concluded that indoor environments need to be examined more granularly if human performance is to be optimized.
You've got a full hour until your next meeting. But you probably won't make the most of that time, new research suggests. In a series of eight studies, both in the lab and real life, researchers found that free time seems shorter to people when it comes before a task or appointment on their calendar.
According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, free time seems shorter when it precedes a meeting, appointment, or even lunch with a friend.
So, if you ask a person how much time they had to read in a free hours, on average they'd say 50 minutes. They pad it with a "just in case factor." If they have a meeting scheduled an hour from now, they double the padding and estimate 40 minutes. These results were consistent with real life studies and, by the way, the opposite was true also. People get more done when their time is not bounded by stop time.
So how do we get that time back? The author has two suggestions: 1) stack meetings close together for part of the day and leave the balance for unbounded work, and 2) train yourself to remember you actually have more time than you think.
"Some firms say they care about the well-being and “happiness” of their employees. But are such claims hype or scientific good sense? We provide evidence, for a classic piece rate setting, that happiness
makes people more productive."
This rigorously academic study, showed employee happiness predicted a 10-12% increase in productivity across three different styles of experiment. The opposite proved true as well.
"On a given day, only 10 percent of people say “thank you” to colleagues—and 60 percent of people report that they never or very rarely express gratitude at work. So OpenIDEO posed a challenge for the best ideas on how express gratitude in the workplace. Over 300 contributions later they announced the winners.
You can have a look at the winning ideas here, but the real winners are the employers that are doing something about the sad state of gratitude. In addition to lower turnover, research by Harvard and Wharton shows a simple 'thank you' can boost productivity by over 50%.
The article points to a number of great research papers and articles about gratitude. Here are a few quick tips for getting started:
- Start at the top; people want to hear it from the boss
- Thank the people who do thankless work
- Quality and authenticity trump quantity
- Gratitude isn’t one-size-fits-all
- Make it personal
And there's a bonus in expressing gratitude. It feels good.
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