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Hybrid work model boosts employee productivity, career growth and loyalty to company, Stanford study concludes

Hybrid work model boosts employee productivity, career growth and loyalty to company, Stanford study concludes
COVID-19 has changed the way the world works, quite literally. About 100 million people worldwide now spend a mix of days at home and in the office each week, more than four years after the pandemic lockdowns upended traditional job routines.

Yet, a significant question remains unresolved: Is letting employees work from home a couple of days a week actually beneficial for productivity, job satisfaction and career progression?

Nicholas Bloom, a prominent Stanford economist, has provided compelling insights into this ongoing debate, suggesting that hybrid work schedules can be mutually advantageous for employees and their companies.
The Trip.com trials
At the heart of Bloom’s research is an experiment conducted by Trip.com, one of the world's leading online travel agencies, back in 2021. Involving 1,600 employees from various backgrounds, the study split participants based on their birthdates into groups working full-time in the office and those adopting a hybrid model. The research team analysed their performance and promotion data over two years, focusing on productivity and work quality comparisons between these groups.

The analysis revealed that employees working remotely for two days each week matched the productivity levels and promotion rates of their counterparts who remained in the office full-time.

Additionally, the experiment highlighted a notable decrease in employee turnover. Those who switched to a hybrid schedule saw a 33% reduction in resignations, with the most significant retention observed among women, non-managers and long-commute workers. This reduction in turnover minimised attrition, translating into cost savings worth millions of dollars for Trip.com.

“The results are clear: Hybrid work is a win-win-win for employee productivity, performance and retention,” said Bloom, who holds the William D. Eberle Professorship of Economics at Stanford and is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR).
What’s with the hybrid hesitation?
Hybrid work continues to have its fair share of critics, notable among which are Elon Musk, head of Tesla, SpaceX and X, and Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase. They have argued that remote work, in any form, undermines employee training, innovation and company culture.

According to Bloom, the issue with such critics is that they often confuse hybrid schedules with fully remote work, leading to mixed perceptions. Most research has targeted jobs that don’t necessitate office presence, like customer support or data entry, where the findings are inconsistent and often lean negative. Bloom believes the issues with such completely remote work primarily emerge from poor management.

Unlike previous studies, Bloom’s research is the most extensive examination of hybrid work among university-educated professionals to date. It uses a randomised controlled trial approach, allowing the researchers to link the observed benefits directly to Trip.com’s hybrid work model, rather than external factors.

“If managed right, letting employees work from home two or three days a week still gets you the level of mentoring, culture-building, and innovation that you want. From an economic policymaking standpoint, hybrid work is one of the few instances where there aren't major trade-offs with clear winners and clear losers. There are almost only winners,” Bloom concluded.

Reflecting on these findings, Trip.com has fully embraced hybrid work across the company, signalling their support for this progressive work arrangement.

The study was recently published in the journal Nature and can be accessed here.

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