Hybrid working models make employees and bosses happier

young woman works from home

In particular, female employees, employees without management functions and those with long commutes benefit from the opportunity to work from home part-time. © AsiaVision / iStock

Nowadays, more and more people are working at least part-time from home. Now a study has once again confirmed the advantages of this hybrid way of working. According to the study, employees who can work from home part-time are happier with their jobs and are less likely to quit. This saves companies a lot of money on recruiting staff. Employees also perform just as well in the home office as they do in the office, as the scientists found using the example of a large travel company. The hybrid working model therefore has advantages for employees and employers, as the managers of the test company also found.

The world of work has changed in the wake of the corona pandemic. Because of the risk of infection, significantly more people were working from home than before. After the pandemic ended, many workers stuck with this model and have been working completely from home ever since. This offers freedom and flexibility, but sometimes also disadvantages, as various studies suggest. But does this also apply to people who only work from home part of the time? Worldwide, 70 percent of employees with the option of working from home now work in a hybrid working model in which they alternate between working in the office and working from home. Most of them work in jobs that require creativity and collaboration. They therefore represent a significantly larger share of the personnel market than employees whose work can be done completely independently and from home.

How does working from home affect employees and their performance?

A research team led by Nicholas Bloom from Stanford University has now investigated whether the hybrid working model affects employee performance and satisfaction. To do this, they surveyed a total of 1,612 employees of the Chinese travel company Trip.com over a period of six months. The employees had a university degree and worked as software developers, in marketing, accounting, financial experts or managers in the company’s Shanghai branch. For the duration of the study, they were randomly divided into two groups. Half worked from home two days a week, the other half worked exclusively in the office.

The experiment found that employees with the hybrid working model were happier with their jobs and quit significantly less often than their colleagues who did not have this freedom. Female employees, employees without management functions and those with long commutes in particular benefited from the opportunity to work from home part-time, as Bloom and his colleagues found. Managers who had previously worried that their employees’ productivity might suffer while working from home revised their opinion after the experiment. This is also confirmed by analyses of employee interviews and performance evaluations, as the researchers report. Even two years after the start of the experiment, they found no difference in the employees’ performance. The employees with the home office option were just as productive and showed the same commitment to the company as their colleagues in the office. They were also promoted just as often.

What follows from this knowledge?

“The results are clear: hybrid working is a win-win-win for employee productivity, performance and retention,” says Bloom. “If you let employees work from home two or three days a week, you still get the level of mentoring, culture building and innovation that you want.” The hybrid working model therefore has advantages for both employees and employers. “From an economic policy perspective, hybrid working is one of the few cases where there are no major trade-offs with clear winners and clear losers. There are almost only winners,” emphasizes Bloom.

As a result of the positive results of the experiment, Trip.com expanded its hybrid work model to all employees. Internal calculations showed that the company was saving millions of dollars on recruiting and training because fewer employees were leaving the company. Other Chinese companies then followed suit and introduced similar work models. According to the researchers, the results can be transferred to comparable fields of work in which employees work in offices for eight hours a day.

Source: Nicholas Bloom (Stanford University) et al., Nature, doi: 10.1038/s41586-024-07500-2

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