Hybrid work is a “win-win-win” for companies, workers

The debate surrounding the effectiveness of work-from-home policies has been raging in workplaces worldwide, but a new study by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom provides compelling evidence that hybrid schedules benefit both employees and their employers. The study, published in the journal Nature, examines an experiment involving more than 1,600 workers at Trip.com, one of the world’s largest online travel agencies based in China.

Bloom and his co-authors found that employees who work from home for two days a week are just as productive and likely to be promoted as their office-based colleagues. Additionally, resignations fell by an impressive 33 percent among workers who transitioned from full-time office work to a hybrid schedule, with women, non-managers, and employees with long commutes being the least likely to quit their jobs.

Trip.com Saves Millions Through Reduced Attrition

The reduced attrition rates resulting from the hybrid work model translated into significant cost savings for Trip.com, estimated to be in the millions of dollars. “The results are clear: Hybrid work is a win-win-win for employee productivity, performance, and retention,” says Bloom, who is the William D. Eberle Professor of Economics at the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR).

The findings are particularly relevant given the current global landscape, where approximately 100 million workers, many of whom are highly educated professionals such as lawyers, accountants, marketers, and software engineers, now follow a hybrid work schedule.

Despite the growing popularity of hybrid work, some high-profile business leaders, such as Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon, have argued that the costs of remote work outweigh its benefits. They contend that employee training, mentoring, innovation, and company culture suffer when workers are not on-site five days a week.

Hybrid Work Differs from Fully Remote Arrangements

Bloom points out that critics often confuse hybrid work with fully remote arrangements, partly because most research into working from home has focused on workers who are not required to come into an office at all and on specific types of jobs, like customer support or data entry. The results of these studies have been mixed, although they tend to skew negative, suggesting that problems with fully remote work arise when it is not managed effectively.

The Trip.com study is one of the few randomized control trials to analyze hybrid arrangements, making its findings particularly valuable for other multinationals that share similarities with the Chinese travel giant. “This study offers powerful evidence for why 80 percent of U.S. companies now offer some form of remote work,” Bloom says, “and for why the remaining 20 percent of firms that don’t are likely paying a price.”

The research is also the largest to date on hybrid work involving university-trained professionals, relying on the gold standard in research: the randomized controlled trial. This approach allowed the authors to demonstrate that the identified benefits resulted directly from Trip.com’s hybrid experiment and not from other factors.

The study’s authors, in addition to Bloom, are Ruobing Han, an assistant professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and James Liang, an economics professor at Peking University and co-founder of Trip.com. Both Han and Liang earned their PhDs in economics from Stanford.

The study’s findings highlight some important nuances, such as the fact that resignations fell only among non-managers, while managers were just as likely to quit regardless of their work arrangement. The authors also identified misconceptions held by workers and their bosses, with workers, especially women, being reluctant to sign up for the hybrid trial, likely due to fear of negative judgment.

For business leaders, Bloom emphasizes that concerns about hybrid work doing more harm than good are overblown. “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,” he says. “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.”

Convinced by the study’s results, Trip.com now allows hybrid work companywide, demonstrating the power of evidence-based decision-making in shaping the future of work.

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