Working from home (or teleworking) is better for both workers and bosses, as it boosts morale and job satisfaction, and cuts stress levels, researchers have discovered.
Researchers analysed 46 studies on flexible work arrangements over the past twenty years.
Ravi S. Gajendran and David A. Harrison, at the Department of Management and Organisation at Pennsylvania State University studied data on 12,833 telecommuters who spend time working away from the office, and found that working away from the office has more pluses than negatives for people and the companies that employ them.
"Our results show that telecommuting has an overall beneficial effect because the arrangement provides employees with more control over how they do their work," said lead author Gajendran.
"We found that telecommuters reported more job satisfaction, less motivation to leave the company, less stress, improved work-family balance, and higher performance ratings by supervisors," he said.
Gajendran and Harrison also found that telecommuting has more positive than negative effects on employees and employers. In addition, the employees in their study reported that telecommuting was beneficial for managing the often conflicting demands of work and family.
The researchers also refuted the popular belief that "face time" at the office is essential for good work relationships.
"Telecommuters' relationship with their managers and coworkers did not suffer from telecommuting with one exception. Employees who worked away from their offices for three or more days a week reported worsening of their relationships with co-workers," said Gajendran.
They also countered productivity concerns, saying that that managers who oversaw telecommuters reported that the telecommuters' performance was not negatively affected by working from home.
"Telecommuting has a clear upside: small but favourable effects on perceived autonomy, work-family conflict, job satisfaction, performance, turnover intent and stress," the authors wrote.
"Contrary to expectations in both academic and practitioner literatures, telecommuting has no straightforward, damaging effects on the quality of workplace relationships or perceived career prospects."
An estimated 45 million Americans telecommuted in 2006, up from 41 million in 2003, according to the magazine WorldatWork. The uptake of broadband in recent years has often been linked to the rise in teleworking.
Yet it is not all plain sailing, and there is still resistance to teleworking in some quarters. Despite AT&T concluding a few years back that teleworking was the future, it now seems that the US carrier is now requiring thousands of employees who work from home to return to traditional office environments.
"It is a serious effort to reel in the telework people," the Telework Coalition’s Chuck Wilsker told Network World. He has heard that as many as 10,000 or 12,000 full-time teleworkers at AT&T may be affected. It is reported that following AT&T’s merger with SBC, new upper management are not supportive of teleworking.
There is also concern at the teleworking trend among IT managers. Last month, nearly nine in 10 IT managers revealed that they feared the security risks caused by remote working practices, in spite of the increased productivity.