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Home working loses its appeal over time for both companies and staff

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The benefits of working from home disappear over time for both employees and organisations if it is a full-time arrangement, a new study from the London School of Economics and Political Science has found.

While previous studies have demonstrated that home workers are more productive than office-based workers, the LSE study of more than 500 employees* shows that on a long term basis, there are no differences between home and office workers.

The reason, according to Dr Esther Canonico from LSE’s Department of Management, is that employees no longer see home working as a discretionary benefit or a ‘privilege’ when it becomes the ‘norm’ in an organisation.

Dr Canonico says: “This study provides a glimpse into a future where flexible working practices could become business as usual and seen as an entitlement by employees, especially among the younger generation. Whereas once people saw it as a favour and felt the need to reciprocate and give back more to the organisation for having that benefit, in this future, they will not.”

“The study showed that some home working employees feel resentful that employers don’t pay their utility bills, or cover stationery costs, for example. Some managers, on the other hand, feel home workers take advantage of the situation.”

If the company expects home workers to be a lot more productive, or workers expect employers to give them a lot of flexibility and not have to reciprocate in kind, one or both are likely to be disappointed. The trick is to manage these expectations, Dr Canonico says.

Existing research shows that working from home for 2-3 days a week is the most effective arrangement for both employees and organisations. Dr Esther Canonico’s research is among the first to measure the impact of home working over a long period taking into account the perspectives of both employer and employee.

Other studies have produced conflicting evidence about the effects of homeworking: past research shows that home working is associated with higher organisational commitment.

This contradicts other research findings that people who work mainly from home are less career focused, prioritising flexibility over career advancement.

“Some of the downsides of home working are an increased sense of professional isolation and a decrease in sharing knowledge with colleagues. It’s not for everyone but it is becoming entrenched into our working culture” Dr Canonico says.

For more information

Dr Esther Canonico, e.canonico@lse.ac.uk or Candy Gibson, LSE media relations office, 020 7955 7440 or c.gibson@lse.ac.uk

Notes to editors

Putting the work-life interface into a temporal context: an empirical study of work-life balance by life stage and the consequences of home working was published in June 2016. It is the thesis of Dr Esther Canonico who was awarded a PhD from LSE’s Department of Management. She also holds an MBA from London Business Schooland a BA in Economics from Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Spain).

Prior to coming to LSE in 2011, Esther worked in British Telecoms for a decade, holding several senior management positions in transformation programme management, business development and strategic partnership management. Before BT, she was a member of the original team that created enba, a company which provided retail financial services through the internet. enba was one of the largest private capital funded start-ups of its time in Europe. 

*The thesis looked at data from more than 500 employees in a British organisation, analysing perceptions of both employees and employer.

6 September 2016

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