The phrase “working from home” used to conjure up images of a guy sitting in his basement, clad only in underwear, potato chip crumbs wedged between his computer keys.
Today, that image is no longer so prevalent, or so funny — perhaps you, dear reader, are enjoying this article from your fancy home office while fully clothed, a bowl of celery sticks within reach.
According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, the number of US employees who regularly work from home increased by a whopping 103% between 2005 and 2016. As of January 2016, about a quarter of the workforce teleworked for at least some portion of the workweek.
But employees and their managers are still figuring out whether, and when, telecommuting really works to make us happier and more productive.
A new survey provides some insight on that topic, suggesting that the most innovative employees split their time between remote and in-office work.
According to the survey, 80% is the ideal proportion of the work week to spend in an office — the rest should be spent working remotely.
For the survey, the collaborative design firm Gensler surveyed more than 4,000 US office workers. Results showed that the most innovative employees spend about 74% of their average work week in the office. By contrast, the least innovative employees spend about 86% of their time in the office.
Gensler measures innovativeness by asking employees to indicate their agreement with statements about job satisfaction, meaning, and managerial relationships. Those statements include, “My company/organisation has a leadership team that encourages innovation” and, “My company/organisation constantly strives to improve products and services.”
The idea that innovative employees divide their time between remote and in-office work is backed by scientific research.
Multiple studies have found that remote work increases job satisfaction — but only up to a certain point, after which satisfaction begins to decrease. (If you graph the relationship, it looks like an upside-down U.)
A 2005 study found that job satisfaction starts declining after about 15.1 hours per week of remote work — which, if you’re working eight-hour days, translates to about two days.
Similarly, a 2014 study looked at teams of telecommunications workers developing new products and found that teams who interacted completely virtually weren’t as successful as those who had a base level of face-to-face contact.
As for job performance, a 2007 study found that managers gave higher ratings to employees who worked remotely — though it’s unclear whether they simply allowed high-performing employees to work from home in the first place.
If you’re a manager, it’s worth thinking about how you can help your employees create more flexible schedules.
If you’re an individual employee, you might consider petitioning the higher-ups for permission to work from home occasionally, and present them with the evidence suggesting that variety is indeed the spice of (work) life.
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