By now, the positive effects of location variety on employee productivity are well documented. But new research described in Harvard Business Review suggests working from anywhere offers an even larger boost to productivity. And the findings show that location independence—a flexibility type we simply call Remote—is a powerful workday modification for employers and employees alike.
The researchers—Raj Choudhury and Cirrus Foroughi of Harvard Business School and Barbara Z. Larson of D'Amore-McKin School of Business—analyzed productivity data for U.S. Patent & Trade Office patent examiners who switched from working from home to working from a location of their choosing.
As described in their working paper currently under review, the researchers not only found a correlation between standard work-from-home programs and productivity gains, but they also found that examiners who worked from home produced 4.4 percent more work after making the switch to a work-from-anywhere program. And these examiners' work didn't suffer either: There was no significant increase in rework and no significant loss to patent quality.
4.4 percent may not sound like much, but that seemingly slight increase actually represents a yearly $1.3 billion gain to the U.S. economy, based on the average economic activity spurred by each additional granted patent, as the researchers note.
Plus, the researchers found that many of the examiners were able to relocate to locations with significantly lower costs of living, meaning these employees enjoyed a boost in real salary at no additional cost to their employers. And the more veteran examiners were more likely to move to retirement hotspots in Florida, suggesting that full location independence could keep older workers in the workforce longer.
This research offers yet another voice to the choir singing the praises of Remote. As we've previously discussed, Remote opens up a job position to applicants regardless of geographic limitations or mobility restrictions. It also frees employees from long and stressful commutes and gets them away from the distractions of a shared workplace. And it makes an employee's work more compatible with any caregiving responsibilities they might have, while keeping them healthier in body and mind.
But before you implement a fully remote or location independent policy at your company, remember that one size does not fit all. While Remote might help some employees improve their productivity, it certainly doesn’t make sense for everyone and many employees still prefer working from a traditional company office. Find out what kind of flexibility will make your employees most productive first—you never know, it could be TimeShift.