A hot potato: It's long been said that working from home results in happier, more productive workers, with most arguments against that claim coming from studies carried out by employers, suspiciously. But a new academic study has also suggested that WFH results in lower productivity, by as much as 18%.

Since the end of the lockdowns, few subjects have been as contentious as working from home. Many studies have found that improved work/life balance, no commuting, and extra time with family increase worker productivity.

But a working paper by economists from MIT and the University of California, Los Angeles, disputes these findings. It observed two groups made up of 235 data-entry workers – one working from home, the other in the office – in Chennai, India, for eight weeks. The results showed that those working from home were 18% less productive, based on net typing speed, than those working from the office.

The study stipulated that those in the office stick to a 9 am to 5 pm schedule, while those at home could choose when they did their 35 hours per week.

As per Insider, the study discovered that people who are less productive when working from home are actually more likely to choose WFH, not less. MIT professor David Atkin, who helped write the paper, explained why this might be the case. He said that some people might choose to work from home even though they're less productive because they need to be there during the day. They could, for example, need to take care of their children, and this can make them more distracted and less productive.

Atkin suggests that the best compromise between WFH satisfaction and in-office productivity is hybrid work, in which employees split their time between both. But coming in two or three days per week is something several companies have mandated, much to the anger of their workers - many are willing to take pay cuts and lose benefits if it means working from home full time, and others say they could quit over a lack of flexibility.

A Microsoft survey in September found most bosses believe working from home causes productivity to suffer; it came almost a year after another Microsoft study claimed it threatens productivity and innovation. There was also a survey that found management was more likely to want to return to the office than employees. Even those working from home often believe their WFH colleagues are being unproductive. Another survey detailed how 40% of remote workers spend four or more hours away from their PCs.