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Telecommuting Better Than Office Working

June 28 2010 - Recent research from Brigham Young University published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that telecommuters experience a better work/life balance than office-based employees even when working significantly longer hours. The study analyzed data from 24,436 IBM employees in 75 countries to identify the number of hours that had to be worked before 25 per cent reported interference with personal and family life.

Office workers with relatively inflexible schedules reached this point when their hours exceeded 38 hours per week. Those who had the possibility of telecommuting were able achieve 57 hours per week with their time typically divided between office and home depending on the nature of the task being undertaken. Both male and female workers appreciated the advantages of flexible working arrangements.

Lead author E. Jeffrey Hill, a professor in the school of family life noted:

"Telecommuting is really only beneficial for reducing work-life conflict when it is accompanied by flextime."

Formerly one of IBM's first telecommuters starting in 1990, Jeffrey Hill commented:

"Managers were initially skeptical about the wisdom of working at home and said things like, ‘If we can’t see them, how can we know they are working?’."

The study found that more than 80 per cent of IBM managers currently agree that productivity increases when flexible working arrangements are made available. In the current economic situation, financial constraints are encouraging more widespread introduction of such schemes.

Jeffrey Hill commented:

"A down economy may actually give impetus to flexibility because most options save money or are cost-neutral. Flexible work options are associated with higher job satisfaction, boosting morale when it may be suffering in a down economy."

Who Telecommutes?

Rising gas prices have resulted in many professionals considering telecommuting as an economical work option, but spending too much time working from home can mean saying goodbye to the corner office.

Surveys developed in 2006 by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in placement of administrative professionals, were conducted by an independent research firm and include responses from 100 senior executives in Canada and 150 in the USA.

They found 32 per cent of Canadian respondents and 43 per cent of US respondents said telecommuting is best suited for staff-level employees, compared with 28 per cent and 18 per cent respectively who felt telecommuting is most beneficial for managers. In addition, more than half of Canadian respondents and more than two-thirds of US respondents said senior executives at their firms rarely or never telecommute.

When asked, 'At which level do you think telecommuting programs are most beneficial?' participants responded:

Level
Staff
Manager
Executive
Administrative support
Don't know/no answer
Canada (%)
32
28
16
15
 9
USA (%)
43
18
14
11
14

When asked, 'Overall, how frequently do senior executives at your firm telecommute?' participants responded:

Frequency
Very frequently
Somewhat frequently
Rarely
Never
Don't know/no answer
Canada (%)
18
21
38
20
 3
USA (%)
 5
23
55
12
 5

According to Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam, it is often easier for staff-level employees to telecommute because their work can be performed autonomously. However, even those people who work from home need to spend time in the office.

Diane Domeyer added:

"Effective management requires plenty of 'face time' with employees. Supervisors should have an open-door policy, and that means being available to staff who need guidance with projects. Employees who work from home must ensure that being out of sight doesn't also mean being out of mind for promotions, team projects and plum assignments."


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