Telecommuting: What Research Says About the Effectiveness of Remote Working Arrangements
While we’ve emphasized the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely, a recent report offers a more comprehensive critique of telework in the US. In the study, leading workplace psychology experts provide insight into the history, practical applications, and social implications of the practice. Here’s what they learned:
Moderation Is Key
Telecommuting is most effective when practiced in moderation, doled out to employees with the self-regulatory skills and autonomy to work independently, and assigned to those not working in positions that require personal contact to fuel innovation and creativity. Based on the research available, telecommuting yields the best results when organizations practice in moderation — i.e. 2-3 days a week versus 5. Job satisfaction, for instance, peaks at around 15 hours of telecommuting per week. Other benefits include higher organizational commitment and job performance, and lower work stress and exhaustion.
It Has Its Own Shortcomings
While there are numerous benefits of telecommuting, there are trade-offs that should be considered too. For instance, employees working primarily out of the office are more isolated from their colleagues and lose out on the knowledge sharing that comes with face-to-face collaboration. Working from home may also lead to a blurred work/life balance, as telecommuters may end up doing increased amounts of work during non-work hours. If you choose to incorporate some form of telecommuting into your company structure, take these telework-trade-offs into account.
Telework Emerged as an Outcome of Public Policy
Some of the earliest inspiration for telework programs came from the environmentalist movement, and it gained prominence as another means by which organizations could comply with the Clean Air Act. (However, telework implemented as a way to lower automobile emissions can end driving up household energy use, making for an ineffective environmental conservation method.) Telecommuting gained further significance as a means for employers to provide reasonable accommodation as mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act. The paper’s authors argue that the inclusion of telework in public policy can help normalize telecommuting and mitigate the stigmas associated with it.
Building an Effective Telecommuting Policy
What does this mean for managers? In short: be flexible. You’ll be more likely to get positive outcomes when you experiment with a 2-3 day per week telework policy, try different arrangements for different employees, look for opportunities to utilize telework to better comply with public policy, etc. Also, consider which of your employees are motivated enough to work effectively out-of-office. Fortunately, being flexible is easier than ever, thanks to FingerCheck360. FingerCheck360 offers time tracking, payroll, employee onboarding, and more in one easy to use solution employees can access online or via tablet or mobile app to punch in wherever they are. Specifying the circumstances under which telecommuting is appropriate and how employees will be evaluated for their out-of-office job performance are the cornerstones to building effective telework arrangements.