Telecommuting Could Hurt Those Left Behind

January 11, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - Telecommuting might be a great experience for those who do it, but it often isn't much fun for those left behind and may make more non-telecommuters leave the company, an academic study has found.

A news release from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute said Timothy Golden, associate professor in the Lally School of Management & Technology, reached that conclusion after studying a sample of 240 professional employees from a medium-size company. According to Golden, the greater the prevalence of teleworkers in an office, the less others in the office are apt to be satisfied with their jobs, with a corresponding decrease in the probability that they will remain with the company.

Golden cautioned, however, that other influential factors may come into play to increase or decrease the impact on job satisfaction and intentions to leave the company, such as the amount of time co-workers telework, the extent of face-to-face interactions, and the amount of job autonomy given to employees.

According to the announcement, non-teleworkers who are less satisfied with co-workers may tend to find the workplace less enjoyable, have fewer and weaker emotional ties to co-workers, and generally feel less obligated to the organization.

“While reasons for the adverse impact on non-teleworker’s satisfaction are varied, it potentially could be due to co-workers’ perceptions that they have decreased flexibility and a higher workload, and the ensuing greater frustration that comes with coordinating in an environment with more extensive co-worker telework,” suggested Golden, in the announcement. “In addition, it may be that with a greater prevalence of teleworkers in a work unit, non-teleworkers may find it less personally fulfilling to conduct their work due to the increased obstacles to building and maintaining effective and rewarding co-worker relationships.”

The results of the study suggest that managers may be able to help mitigate some of the adverse impact by ensuring greater face-to-face contact between co-workers when employees are in the office, and granting greater job autonomy to accomplish work activities as employees see fit.