According to two Penn State researchers in management, telecommuting is good both for workers and their employers. The two psychologists looked at 20 years of research on flexible work arrangements, covering 46 previous studies of telecommuting involving more than 12,000 employees. And they found that 'telecommuting is a win-win for employees and employers, resulting in higher morale and job satisfaction and lower employee stress and turnover.' One of the major factors in employee satisfaction is autonomy, and telecommuting brings that to individuals. This large meta-study also reveals that people who often work at home think their careers don't suffer from telecommuting. But read more...
The figure above summarizes the three themes which play a central role in the telecommuting experience. The first one deals with psychological control or perceived autonomy. The second one concerns the telecommutings effects on the work–family interface. And the third one deals with concerns about telecommuting's potential for relational impoverishment at work. (Credit: Penn State/American Psychological Association)
This study has been led by Ravi Gajendran, a doctoral student in the Department of Management and Organization of the Penn State Smeal College of Business, and David Harrison, Smeal Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management. "'Our results show that telecommuting has an overall beneficial effect because the arrangement provides employees with more control over how they do their work,' said Gajendran. 'Autonomy is a major factor in worker satisfaction and this rings true in our analysis. We found that telecommuters reported more job satisfaction, less motivation to leave the company, less stress, improved work-family balance, and higher performance ratings by supervisors.'"
What is even more interesting, especially to a French guy like myself, is what the researchers gathered about work relationships from all these previous surveys. "Contrary to popular belief that face time at the office is essential for good work relationships, said Gajendran, telecommuters’ relationship with their managers and coworkers did not suffer from telecommuting with one exception. Employees who worked away from their offices for three or more days a week reported worsening of their relationships with coworkers. However, managers who oversaw telecommuters reported that the telecommuters’ performance was not negatively affected by working from home. And those who telecommuted reported that they did not believe their careers were likely to suffer from telecommuting."
This study has been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association, under the name "The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown About Telecommuting: Meta-Analysis of Psychological Mediators and Individual Consequences" (Volume 92, Issue 6, Pages 1524–1541, November 2007). Here is a link to this study which is currently available online for free (PDF format, 18 pages, 153 KB). The above figure has been extracted from this document.
Here is an excerpt from the abstract. "Telecommuting had small but mainly beneficial effects on proximal outcomes, such as perceived autonomy and (lower) work-family conflict. Importantly, telecommuting had no generally detrimental effects on the quality of workplace relationships. Telecommuting also had beneficial effects on more distal outcomes, such as job satisfaction, performance, turnover intent, and role stress. These beneficial consequences appeared to be at least partially mediated by perceived autonomy."
And here is a quote from the conclusions of the study. "Contrary to expectations in both academic and practitioner literatures, telecommuting also has no straightforward, damaging effects on the quality of workplace relationships or perceived career prospects. However, there is a downside of higher intensity telecommuting in that it does seem to send coworker (but not supervisor) relationships in a harmful direction. Some of the complexities of these consequences have yet to be explored, but the evidence and theory reviewed here suggest that they can be managed effectively through informed human resources policies."
Sources: American Psychological Association press release, November 19, 2007; and various websites
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