January 7, 2011

Studies Show Teleworkers Have More Job Satisfaction, and Work Harder!

Studies Show Teleworkers Have More Job Satisfaction, and Work Harder!

A research study conducted by Kathryn Fonner, UWM and Michael Roloff, Northwestern University, analyzed conflicting perspectives on the advantages and disadvantages of a location-neutral workforce. Two sets of employees were surveyed: traditional employees, who work in an office-based setting with their colleagues on a full-time basis; and teleworkers, who work from a location of their choice outside of the traditional office at least three days a week.

The results showed that while physical proximity provides the advantage of daily face-to-face dialogue, it “may not be necessary for an effective and satisfying work environment”. There are also disadvantages such as less effective and autonomous time management. In fact, a primary conclusion of the study is that limited face-to-face communication offers many advantages.

“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,” says Fonner. “With lower stress and fewer distractions, employees can prevent work from seeping into their personal lives.”

Telecommuting showed some marked advantages:

Teleworkers reported higher job satisfaction, less work-life conflict, lower work-related stress, a greater ability to focus on their work, and less bother with office politics than traditional office-based colleagues. And while there is less communication between teleworkers and in-office employees, necessary business information was found to be equally accessible.

Teleworkers’ greater job satisfaction is derived from:

  • The increased ability to flexibly balance professional and personal endeavors;
  • The ability to work with more focus and therefore avoid stresses related to interruptions and delays caused by numerous interactions;
  • The buffer from office politics that can be an emotional stress and distraction.

Suggestions for Better Work Environment

Drawing from the results of the study, the authors make a number of suggestions for increasing work efficiencies and job satisfaction that apply to both the traditional office setting and a location-neutral workforce: Curb over-communication, over information, wasted time, and interruptions.

Specific suggestions include limiting meetings both in number and in participants, limiting non-essential communications such as mass e-mails, and utilizing technology to make the right information available to the right people easily.

More specifically for in-office employees to be most efficient and satisfied, employers should consider offering ‘‘quiet time” and “quiet space” to focus on the task at hand without interruption, offering scheduling flexibility to accommodate personal endeavors and obligations, and minimizing office politics as well as ensuring a venue for political issues to be reported and resolved.

Teleworkers work harder and longer!

Management professors Clare Kelliher and Deirdre Anderson from the Cranfield School of Management in the United Kingdom ran a study on job satisfaction amongst teleworkers. Their study found that teleworkers work more intensely and often more hours than their office-bound colleagues, and they report more job satisfaction and company loyalty.

“We argue that flexible workers ‘repay’ the choice opened up to them, by means of extending a greater effort,” reported Kelliher. The flexibility offered by the employer is perceived as an employee benefit, and it is rewarded by greater performance.

 

Read more from the National Communication Association, publisher of the Journal of Applied Communication Research. Fonner & Roloff’s study is discussed in an article on the NCA site “Teleworking: When Less Communication is More”.

Cranfield School of Management, Management professors Clare Kelliher and Deirdre Anderson

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