In the U.S. today, just over 15 percent of us regularly work from home at least one day a week, according to latest figures from the US Census. About 5 per cent work mainly from home. Telecommuters even have their own publication – Telecommuting Times
For those who do commute on average, it takes about 25 minutes to reach their workplace.
More than three-quarters of Americans drive to their jobs alone. Nearly 11 percent ride in car pools and less than 5 percent take public transportation, including taxicabs. About 2.5 percent are lucky enough they can walk to work.
Telecommuting has been accused of all sorts of ills – including making the home a more stressful place, reducing communication in the workplace and reducing productivity, but a recent study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, firmly debunks these claims. Ravi Gajendran and David Harrison at the Department of Management and Organization with Pennsylvania State University, conducted an extensive review of 46 studies on the subject featuring 12,883 employees. Their results show that working from home is good for business and for staff.
The researchers identified seven positive results of working at home:
A key positive aspect of telecommuting is the opportunity for workers to have maximum control over their work and work environment.
Staff have control over when they take breaks, what they wear to work and the layout of their office space. They can make individualized choices of decor and music, and alter ventilation and lighting to their liking. As long as the work gets done, staff are free to choose what they do and when.
Improved work-family balance
When staff can decide when they are going to work and what particular tasks they will work on, they are afforded the opportunity to integrate work and family obligations. This means they can make work and family schedules fit together.
Staff can plan uninterrupted work time as well as catering to family needs. Some workers set aside a room for an office and thereby reduce disruptions. Telecommuting reduces time spent in traffic and can ostensibly increase the number of hours that telecommuting staff work.
Improved supervisor-staff relationships
The researchers found that telecommuting had a positive effect on supervisor/staff relationships. They speculated that the reason for this is that both parties make an extra effort to stay in touch when staff work from home. Supervisors who have less opportunity to see home-based staff may contact them more and have longer and better quality conversations.
Not having to rush to work through commuter traffic, spend extra money on lunch and business attire or worry about being late can reduce stress. Working from home causes a reduction in common irritants, subtle pressures and concerns that other workers find pervasive.
Increased job satisfaction
Workers who have increased control over their work, who can attend to their familial obligations and experience autonomy are more satisfied and less likely to quit their jobs.
Being given the option to work at home promotes a sense of loyalty to the organization. Staff feel cared about and their concerns taken seriously when they are given the option of alternative work arrangements.
Staff who are ready to quit their jobs often cite tensions between work and family, lack of employer flexibility and difficult supervisors as reasons for their desire to leave. Some employers introduce flexible work arrangements to induce overwhelmed or stressed workers to stay. By finding ways for employees to do their jobs and lower their stress, companies keep valued, experienced people on the payroll. People stay at jobs where they feel respected, trusted and allowed to complete tasks in ways that suit them.
Improved productivity and career prospects
Contrary to those who oppose work-at-home arrangements, productivity increases in these scenarios. Staff are less distracted and when supervisors examine objectively what actually gets done, they note that at-home workers deliver.
The researchers debunked the concern that not being seen in the office was considered career-limiting. Participants in the studies they reviewed did not consider their work arrangement a liability and when taken with improved supervisor-staff relations and increased productivity, the at-home work arrangement may help those who wish to advance in their careers.
Gajendran and Harrison report that telecommuting is largely beneficial for companies and workers. But they warn that care needs to be taken to nurture at-home workers’ relationships with their co-workers.