Teleworkers experience lower amounts of stress, study finds

In the wake of the passage of the federal telework bill, newly published research shows that employees who telecommute the majority of the work week are more satisfied with their jobs compared to those who do not—because working remotely alleviates more stress than it creates.

The main benefit reported by participants who telework at least three days a week is the decreased work-life conflict that a flexible work arrangement allows, according to a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The study was reviewed in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Communication Research, which is published by the National Communication Association.

There were multiple reasons why telework is linked to high job satisfaction, said Kathryn Fonner, a UWM assistant professor of communication and study co-author. For example, employees working remotely are, on average, shielded from much of the distracting and stressful aspects of the workplace, such as office politics, interruptions, constant meetings and information overload, Fonner said.

“Our findings emphasize the advantages of restricted face-to-face interaction, and also highlight the need for organizations to identify and address the problematic and unsatisfying issues inherent in collocated work environments,” said Fonner. “With lower stress and fewer distractions, employees can prevent work from seeping into their personal lives.”

Alienation from workplace communication, often cited as the biggest disadvantage of telework, was reported as minimal by the study’s participants, researchers found. Teleworkers reported exchanging information with others less frequently than office-based employees, but both groups reported similar timely access to important work-related information.

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Reader comments

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 California

Not having to drive is a benefit. The downside is that I put in more hours offsite than I would onsite. My company is a governement contractor so we bill 40 hours per week. My normal workday onsite is 9-10 hours and offsite 10-12 hours. Telework can and does work well for many people, but must be managed the same as an onsite person needs to be managed.

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 RJ DC

Telework is great for those who are productive take pride in their performance and are productive and industrious no matter the location they work. A decent manager should observe staff work ethics. If okay in site, they should be okay out of site. A measure of output--work still submitted on-time and of high quality. Then that person should be allowed to telework. If a person is not productive and industrious onsite, then as a supervisor, I have the guts to tell them "no" to telework until I they can show me otherwise. I didn't think that telework would work for me because my home is my castle and I didn't want to make it a work environment. However, due to a medical situation, I worked from home for a substantial period of time. I became hooked because I am a producer--I like to get things done, on or ahead of time and with high-quality results. I telework several days a week. Telework gets me away from the office interruptions and meetings for the sake of meeting. I've also supervised several staff whom I observed to work in a manner similar to mine in that they are on top of their tasks and have great work ethics. I'm more productive, less stressed, and have work-life balance. Bottomline, teleworking is not for everyone and each individual needs to be sized-up for it. The employee knows best if they are disciplined enough to handle teleworking but the supervisor should know based on what they see and get while the person is in the office. If you can't trust them onsite then you can't trust them off-site. That should be the deciding factor per individual. If there is one thing I hated about elementary school it was making everyone miss recess because one or two known (key word is known) students mis-behaved. We should have come farther than this by now.

Fri, Dec 3, 2010

@M in Reston: Isn't the subject of poor, ineffective, "pesky" government managers a subject for a separate article? Any supervisor worth his or her salt can easily manage a teleworking employee very effectively. If you can't, that says more about you than it does about the teleworker(s).

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 MI

John D - agreed that productivity goes up without the commute and without the "quad pod" cubicle interactions. Communications can be much more focused. M-Reston - I guess your attitude fits to what YOU would do if "unleashed" but that isn't the case for everyone. Work ethic is work ethic in or out of the office.

Thu, Dec 2, 2010

My job can be done remotely however company policy has me in the office every day despite a 1 1/2 hour commute. I appreciate the rare times when I can telecommute in order to go to the doctor without using a vacation day.

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