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Four Surprising Ways Teleworking Makes Employees Happy

By Melissa J. Anderson

The relationship between teleworking and job satisfaction seems paradoxical. On one hand, employees who work from home report better work life balance. But on the other, getting in less face time with managers and co-workers could mean confusion and missed deadlines.

A new study, “Why Teleworkers are More Satisfied with Their Jobs than are Office-Based Workers: When Less Contact is Beneficial,” published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research has explored this paradox and come up with some surprising findings.

According to researchers Kathryn L. Fonner and Michael E. Roloff, less face time may actually be a significant factor in job satisfaction. They write, “In sum, 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.”

They continue:

“Study findings may help skeptical managers see teleworkers’ satisfaction as more than simply the enjoyment of working away from the office. Results show that working remotely the majority of the time alleviates forms of stress and distraction – including acting as a buffer from workplace injustice – which may provide a more productive and satisfying work environment.”

Here are four ways, according to the study, that telework increases job satisfaction.

1. Reduced Work/Life Conflict

The first finding of the study isn’t shocking – that being able to work from home reduces work/life stress. Although some have posited that removing the boundaries between work and home could irritate the work/life tension, in fact, this study revealed the opposite.

Fonner and Roloff write, “Teleworkers report significantly less worklife conflict than office based employees, confirming previous research linking higher intensity telework to decreased worklife conflict (Gajendran & Harrison, 2007).”

2. Fewer Meetings

It’s become common practice to complain about meetings as an irritating productivity-suck. And in fact, the research shows that the ability to avoid meetings and other office interruptions is a significant factor in teleworker happiness. Fonner and Roloff explain:

“In general, extensive meetings and interruptions likely spur negative feelings and prevent employees from structuring and accomplishing tasks (Leonardi, Treem, & Jackson, 2010), which we propose represents a loss of psychological control and may decrease job satisfaction. Hence, a diminished presence in the office may benefit teleworkers by diluting their exposure to certain interruptions and distractions.”

Extensive meetings make employees feel powerless to organize their day and complete their work. Teleworkers are free from this stress.

3. No More Office Politics

According to the paper, research as shown that teleworkers are less likely to be part of informal political networks – and that makes them happier, more productive, and less likely to leave the company. The researchers explain:

“Being less exposed to, or perceiving less of, this type of going along to get ahead behavior is linked to higher job satisfaction. Organizational politics have also been associated with negative outcomes such as job neglect (Vigoda, 2003) and turnover intentions (Cropanzano et al., 1997). We conclude that decreased face-time in the office affords a distinct advantage by limiting teleworkers’ exposure to political behavior, or at least allowing them to feel removed enough to downplay its prevalence.”

Additionally, they noted, that this correlation was so strong should serve as a warning signal to organization managers – office politics and gossip are a significant cause for collocated worker stress and job dissatisfaction.

4. Less Susceptible to Info Overload

Finally, the researchers reported that they were surprised to find that, in today’s corporate workplace, less face time means better relationships. Collocated workers reported feeling bombarded by information from managers and coworkers, often to the determent of their productivity. On the other hand, teleworkers said they didn’t experience this stress.

They explained:

“…our final model indicates that less frequent interaction with others may be desirable. This supports recent findings that teleworkers view increased connectivity and interaction with others as an interference in their ability to work without interruptions and maintain worklife balance (Leonardi et al., 2010).”

Because so much of today’s workspace is knowledge and performance based, constant workplace socializing may be hindering collocated workers from doing their jobs. Teleworkers are able to escape this pressure, and perform at their peak

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