Why do all of my decent light bulbs appear as soon as I get home? At least I'm not the only one:
Just how hard do telecommuters work? It depends on the assignment: Employees get more boring work done in the office and more creative work at home.
Researchers assigned two tasks to 125 participants. The first was rote and repetitive; the other involved coming up with as many unusual uses for ordinary objects as possible, a test often used by psychologists to measure creativity. About half the participants did the tasks in a supervised lab, the other half remotely.
On the uncreative tasks, people were 6% to 10% less productive outside the lab. The fall-off was steepest among the least productive third of workers. (People who reported procrastinating on their homework were also, unsurprisingly, poor telecommuters—as were men.) On the creative tasks, by contrast, people were 11% to 20% more productive outside the lab.
Employers like Google, which tries to achieve an informal work environment, recognize that a lack of structure often abets creativity.
"The Effects of Telecommuting on Productivity," E. Glenn Dutcher, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (forthcoming)
*Note: I have celebrated after a day of Southern Econ Association sessions with Glenn (via my grad school officemate) and therefore will elevate him to Env-Econ friend status (akin to Facebook friend).