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A new study proves that working from home is actually productive

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It’s not all about snacks and naps, says Kate Leaver. Flexibility at work could help close the gender pay gap – and that’s just for starters...

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By Kate Leaver on

You probably think the greatest perks of working from home are the pyjama dress code, proximity to snacks and freedom to nap or bathe when desired. (Yes, I am technically wearing a big dressing gown - like a smoking jacket - at my desk right now and I did take a bath break yesterday). But as it turns out, the greatest perk of working from home could be significantly increased productivity.

According to a study published today by HSBC, flexibility and remote work are the most important motivators for employees across the UK. A whopping 89 per cent of people surveyed by the bank said the thing that would motivate them to be most productive at work is flexibility, followed by remote work, and then trailed by things like a bonus scheme, learning courses, extra sick days and healthcare insurance. People would rather work from home in their dressing gown than have a little extra cash, a gym membership or an away day with their team. And that’s women <and> men – 90 per cent of women and 87 per cent of men were keen on flexibility.

While we’re on the subject of productivity and life balance, it also pays to take a lunch break. People who took more than 30 minutes as a lunch break were more productive, as were those employees who took a break every two hours. Proof that we need to change the way we work – stacked into open-plan offices like sardines, eating lunch at our desks, between the hours of 9 and 5 – is staring us in the face and yet we do so little about it.

People who took more than 30 minutes as a lunch break were more productive, as were those employees who took a break every two hours

A Stanford University Professor called Nicholas Bloom has been busying his case for working from home. In his TED talk at Stanford, Bloom told the story of a study he did with a Chinese company called Ctrip. The company has 16,000 employees and wanted to test how effective it would be to let some of them work from home, so they invited people to apply for the experiment and monitored people’s productivity results in and out of the office. The results were quite staggering: the company saved $1,900 per person working from home and they had an average increase in productivity of 13.5 per cent. That’s the equivalent of getting a full extra day’s work out of employee, so naturally the big boss was delighted. Attrition rates were 50 per cent lower among those at home in their pyjamas and job satisfaction was higher. Some of them, however, reported feeling isolated or lonely – which I must admit can be uno problemo for the work-from-home woman, too (you just have to be really diligent about factoring in time for human contact). Professor Bloom says that working from home one to two days a week would be ideal.

Fancy some more evidence? Step this way. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, flexibility at work could help close the gender pay gap (which currently sits at 18.1 per cent). The EHRC recommended that companies offer flexible working conditions to all job applicants to reduce pay disparity between men and women, and create more jobs for people with disabilities. Actually, introducing flexible and remote work would have an impact on several pay gaps – among working mothers, people of different ethnicities and people with disabilities, for example.

At the moment, the gender pay gap is 18.1 per cent. The disability pay gap is 13.6 per cent. Men with depression earn 30 per cent less and women with depression earn 10 per cent less (something that affects me personally – trust me, many days of productivity and therefore income are lost to depression). There’s an ethnic minority imbalance of 5.7 per cent, with male Bangladeshi immigrants the worst affected – they have a pay gap of 48 per cent. Ethnic families across the UK earn £8900 less per year than their British peers. Interestingly, female ethnic groups had an advantage over British white women.

It might be mad for me sit at home in my fluffy pink dressing gown and tell you what to do with your life, but if I were you, I’d suit up, arm yourself with this latest HSBC study on productivity, swat up on Professor Bloom’s study and celebrate Equal Pay Day by asking your boss to work flexibly. It could be the best thing you do for your career.


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