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Evaluating the Impact of Working from Home on Productivity and Work-Life Balance in China
Last registered on April 12, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Evaluating the Impact of Working from Home on Productivity and Work-Life Balance in China
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0000276
Initial registration date
April 12, 2017
Last updated
April 12, 2017 4:58 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Stanford
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Stanford Economics and Cornerstone Research
PI Affiliation
Beijing University Guanghua Management School, and Ctrip
PI Affiliation
Stanford GSB and SIEPR
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2010-01-01
End date
2014-11-06
Secondary IDs
Abstract
A rising share of employees now regularly work from home (WFH), but there are concerns this can lead to “shirking from home.” We report the results of a WFH experiment at Ctrip, a 16,000- employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency. Call center employees who volunteered to WFH were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for 9 months. Home working led to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction and their attrition rate halved, but their promotion rate conditional on performance fell. Due to the success of the experiment, Ctrip rolled out the option to WFH to the whole firm and allowed the experimental employees to re-select between the home and office. Interestingly, over half of them switched, which led to the gains from WFH almost doubling to 22%. This highlights the benefits of learning and selection effects when adopting modern management practices like WFH.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Bloom, Nicholas et al. 2017. "Evaluating the Impact of Working from Home on Productivity and Work-Life Balance in China." AEA RCT Registry. April 12. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.276-1.0.
Former Citation
Bloom, Nicholas et al. 2017. "Evaluating the Impact of Working from Home on Productivity and Work-Life Balance in China." AEA RCT Registry. April 12. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/276/history/16533.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
From a group of 996 employees, 503 volunteered to participate, of which 249 were qualified by virtue of having worked at the firm for 6 months, having broadband internet, and having their own workspace in their homes. From this group, those with even-numbered birthdays (day of birth ending in 0, 2, 4, etc.) were randomly selected to work at home. Those with odd-numbered birthdays were required to continue working from the office and served as the comparison group. Employees selected to participate in the program worked four days per week from home and one day in the office. They were still supervised by their team leader, who always worked in the office, and they maintained the same hours, wage levels, type of work, and computer and communication equipment.
Intervention Start Date
2010-12-06
Intervention End Date
2011-08-14
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Impact on employee productivity and promotion, Impact on employee satisfaction, Employee and company learning.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The experiment took place in Ctrip’s airfare and hotel booking call center in Shanghai, China. The experiment lasted roughly nine months, and a mandatory post-experiment survey was conducted eighteen months later of all remaining employees and 200 randomly selected new employees.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
This selection of even birthdates into the treatment group was randomly determined by the Chairman, James Liang, by drawing a ping pong ball from an urn in a public ceremony one week prior to the experiment’s start date.
Randomization Unit
Individual level
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
N/A, no cluster
Sample size: planned number of observations
249 call center employees
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Treatment:131 call center employees

Control: 118 call center employees
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Study has received IRB approval. Details not available.
IRB Approval Date
Details not available
IRB Approval Number
Details not available
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
August 14, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
May 31, 2013, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
N/A not clustered
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Yes
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
184 call center employees. By the end of the 9-month experiment, the total attrition rate in the treatment group (17%) was less than half of that in the control group (35%).
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
110 employees in the treatment group and 74 employees in the control group by September 1st, 2011.
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Yes
Program Files
Program Files
Yes
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
A rising share of employees now regularly work from home (WFH), but there are concerns this can
lead to “shirking from home.” We report the results of a WFH experiment at Ctrip, a 16,000-
employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency. Call center employees who volunteered to WFH
were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for 9 months. Home working led
to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer
breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more
convenient working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction and
their attrition rate halved, but their promotion rate conditional on performance fell. Due to the
success of the experiment, Ctrip rolled out the option to WFH to the whole firm and allowed the
experimental employees to re-select between the home and office. Interestingly, over half of them
switched, which led to the gains from WFH almost doubling to 22%. This highlights the benefits of
learning and selection effects when adopting modern management practices like WFH.
Citation
Bloom, Nick, James Liang, John Roberts, and Zhichun Jenny Ying. 2014. "Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment." Quarterly Journal of Economics, forthcoming.