Forgot about your Homework?! The Confounding Effect of Inaccuracy in Productivity and Stress Recollection on Work-from-Home Evaluation

MCRE Working Paper
Health and well-being, Behavioral Economics and Finance

Objectives: The prevalent use of self-reported productivity and satisfaction as key metrics for gauging working-from-home outcomes has influenced the formulation of many detailed WFH policies. A weakness of self-reports, seemingly overlooked in the work-from-home literature, is whether the autobiographical memory of productivity is accurate. This paper investigates whether recollection inaccuracy taints the current working-from-home evaluation.Methods: A two-wave survey data sample consisting of 772 home-workers during the 2020 shift to the home office examines recollection accuracy as well as the underlying mechanism. Using a five-factor productivity scale, within-subject non-parametric tests identify consistency between multiple waves. A binominal model, pairwise comparison, and OLS approach evaluates the predictive value of the targeted score compared to the current (inaccurate) score.Results: The signed rank test shows that recollection scores consistently underestimate past scores (one factor: p<.002; four factors: p<0.0004). The recollected scores are closer to the current score than the targeted score (for all factors: p<.0004) and have a greater magnitude impact on the recollection scores than the targeted score (difference in OLS coefficients ranging from .164 to .606). Exploration of trends additionally suggests that, although the absolute scores are influenced by the current reference point, the relative changes seem consistent over time.Conclusion: The findings in this paper underscore the presence of structural recollection inaccuracy in self-reported productivity and emphasize the importance of interpreting retrospective self-reported productivity with caution. Heavily relying on biased accounts without acknowledging the potential inaccuracy could fundamentally flaw work-from-home evaluation and render the consequential anticipatory efforts suboptimal or even counterproductive.

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