Telecommuters Cause Bad Morale? Perhaps That Is Indicative Of A Bigger Problem

from the that's-why-it's-called- dept

With increased home connectivity and gas prices on the rise, telecommuting has grown in popularity. But, a recent study warns that organizations with high numbers of telecommuters can damage traditional workers’ job satisfaction. The study, published by RPI management professor, Timothy Golden, found a correlation between the number of teleworkers in the office and lower job satisfaction in non-teleworkers. Perhaps a better explanation would be that the non-teleworkers feel like they’re being treated unfairly. Although studies have shown that telecommuters are happier and less stressed, the happiness actually comes not from the telecommuting itself, but from the higher flexibility and autonomy afforded by telecommuting policies. By not chaining workers to a desk for 8 hours a day (which has also been shown to stifle productivity), employees are afforded the flexibility they need to mold their job around their busy lives, and not the other way around. Golden does realizes this fact in his report, so instead of making the telecommuters feel “special,” he recommends that telecommuting be approached at an organizational level rather than a case-by-case basis. Whether or not your desk sits in your house, at the office, or both, it is not the location of the desk that is important, but rather the flexibility to choose when and where you sit.

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Comments on “Telecommuters Cause Bad Morale? Perhaps That Is Indicative Of A Bigger Problem”

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Anonymous Coward says:

This is ridiculous. So because some people are jealous or envious of someone else’s situation, EVERYONE should have to suffer? Does this mean the CEO shouldn’t be allowed to take a copter or limo to work everyday? Executives shouldn’t be able to take ten million dollar loans from the company for a new home? Everyone should make the same amount of money?

I’ve telecommuted my entire life and I work more hours than anyone in the office. Further, I’m available with a moment’s notice while other people would take an hour or two to get their shit together and show up at the office if help was needed. In fact, being able to telecommute full time has been enough of a benefit to me that it makes up for the fact I haven’t had a significant raise in awhile.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anonymous Coward.

Did you think that maybe the reason you can be there in a moments notice is because telecommuting afforded you the opportunity to do what you need to do… Where as people who are in the office have to do things outside of work… There for “they” ,the lowly cubicle worker, maybe doing something at 5 or 6 pm that you have already done at 10am because you were home/telecommuting?

Get off your high horse. That attitude is what gives the people in the office the attitude described in the clip above.

keith says:

Re: Re:

How can you be surprised. This policy of forcing everyone to suffer because anything else would be “unfair” has been common place for years. We see this in laws and most recently in our education system. No child left behind……………..class, everyone needs to slow down so little tommy can catch up! We don’t want him to feel left out now do we?

rstr5105 says:

re: Anon

I don’t think that that was what Dennis was saying at all.
I believe what he was getting at was that the option to telecommute should be given to the entire organization rather than just piecing it out here and there.
And I can agree with that. EXCEPT that there are people out there who would telecommute, then never get any work done. (Granted these are the people who already commute normally, then play solitaire all day.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: re: Anon

Someone who can’t do their job shouldn’t be employed, period. Whether or not it’s on-site or remotely. There are people who work in an office and are more useless than dust. Just like there are people in an office who work as hard as anyone else. Telecommuting has nothing to do with it except maintaining the dedication and availability of already dedicated employees.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Did you think that maybe the reason you can be there in a moments notice is because telecommuting afforded you the opportunity to do what you need to do.”

No. The reason I can be there in a moment’s notice is that I can walk to the computer. Sign in. Grab my cell phone. Begin work. I would otherwise have to get ready and dressed, get in the car or on the bus, get through traffic to the other side of the city (or farther for some people) and then go to the office and do what I could have just done in two minutes at home.

Get of your poor little whiney me horse. Work sucks, period. If you can work from home and you like it, great. If you can’t, I’m sorry but that’s not my problem just like it’s not my bosse’s problem if he can work in a private jet commuting to his summer cottage across the country while I stare out the same window at a wall all day. *shrug*.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Using a sample of 240 professional employees” sure seems too small and… we have to pay to read the research.

What is this post? Is it an ad for Sage Journals?

Seems that it is human nature to jump to conclusions so I would like to at least read the research.

Posting an article with a conclusion in the title to research that must be bought seems suspicious.

Cynic says:

I do agree that there are benefits to both working situations, plus the also common situation of working in the office PLUS at home.

However (in my current job at least) I do not believe there is any doubt that the telecommuters place an extra burden on those in the office, and I am *not* saying this is the fault of the telecommuters. For instance, our cubical phones are not able to conference an arbitrary number of in house and external calls, and only certain conference rooms have polycoms, and they are often unavailable. If an office is used (also better phones) one must close the door to avoid disturbing the floor, but then everyone thinks you’re in a private manager meeting instead of just a coordination session. Large files and some applications don’t go across VPN well, causing office workers to use different approaches for sharing information than if everyone were present. The telecommuters don’t hear overhead pages or announcements, nor are they aware if the entire building has just evacuated because of an unannounced fire drill. Any one of these things may sound rare, but add them up and on a daily basis I find there is always a need to reschedule, adapt, do extra communication, etc. It’s really the employer not properly *preparing* for the telecommuting, but you know how employers are always willing to step up to the plate and accept responsibility for screw ups, right?

Dave says:

yeah, let's go back to the fifties instead.

Might telecommuters damage desk-jockeys’ morale? Sure. They are jealous – “Why can’t I stay home and work nude with my giant stomach sticking out over my pajamas?”

Maybe the boss knows that Employee A is very independent and highly productive, and thus a good telecommuting candidate, but Employee B will not do much of anything except shop, read ESPN, and look at porno unless someone is riding his ass, so they aren’t such a good candidate.

And certain jobs lend themselves better to telecommuting. One where you need constant meetings, facetime, and other annoyances like that would not be a good telecommuting possibility. That must be taken into account, yet many jobs do work well with telecommuting.

Does jealousy mean that business should have no telecommuting? No. People are demoralized and jealous for a lot of reasons besides telecommuters. Excessive hours, too much stress, understaffing, unfair promotions, incompetent management – you mean to tell me that those don’t damage morale more than telecommuting? If we’re eliminating telecommuting, let’s eliminate those too, then.

Of course, some managers are control freaks, so they wouldn’t consider telecommuting for any reason.

bshock (profile) says:

I always thought telecommuting was a good idea...

I always thought telecommuting was a good idea, until I had to work with a guy who only telecommuted. We were part of a software maintenance team. My telecommuting coworker was located nearly 2,000 miles away, so I never saw him in person. Soon after I started working in this situation, I noticed that his work was slipshod and his emails were incredibly arrogant (if not downright insulting). Granted, some of this might have been because he had seniority in the project and felt he couldn’t be terminated. But I have to wonder if his physical distance from coworkers didn’t make him feel anonymous and invulnerable, a bit like an Internet troll.

Chuck Wilsker (user link) says:

Validity of Conclusions in Research Findings Quest

After reviewing the Study “Telecommuting May Harm Workers Left Behind in the Office” conducted by Timothy Golden, associate professor in the Lally School of Management & Technology at Rensselaer, we question the validity of his research and quite frankly are surprised that it was released. Drawing conclusions on a study based on “a couple hundred people from a single company”, may say more about that company’s policies and procedures, or lack thereof, than teleworking. How can anyone perform a study with his only source of data being one medium size company and imply that his conclusions are valid for any other organization?

In 2006 we, The Telework Coalition, conducted a Telework Benchmarking study of 13 large organizations with mature telework programs. In it we asked about the attitudes of those employees who did not telework. Both our study and two previously conducted studies by other organizations in which there were multiple participants showed that the non teleworking coworkers were both enthusiastically supportive and felt teleworking was good for the organization, or at the least, the situation was a non issue.

In Mr. Golden’s study none of the distributed work program’s many benefits are measured, compared, or contrasted with the grumblings from ‘those left behind’. We have seen more employers concerned with transit strikes, the possibility of a bird flu pandemic, terrorism, recruiting and retention issues, rising gas prices, faltering transportation infrastructures, the environment, etc. than the negatives alluded to by Mr. Golden.

Were there no positives in this company’s telework program? Was there top-level support, written policies and procedures, and processes, selection criteria based on the employee and job, a communication plan (so everyone is the “loop”), training, and program evaluation (to identify/resolve any start up issues). Did this company follow these steps?

So many questions, and yet so few answers from Dr. Golden’s research.

The Telework Coalition
Washington, DC

Anonymous Coward says:

Telecommuting makes more work for me

With each person that telecommutes, my job in the office gets more difficult. Communication takes longer and highly interactive forms of two-way communication (face to face) are replaced by less effective and frequently less efficient forms (ie. E-mail). I am sitting at my desk, so who gets asked the random questions by the manager? Me. Who addresses the critical issue with members from other departments? Me. I feel isolated and overburdened. Yes, I could work from home as well but I know that my being in the office allows the company to run more efficiently. It is a pitty my co-workers are less concerned about that. If they came in just some of the time, I might be able to telecommute on some days. Then I wouldn’t have to stay up late washing my laundry or pay extra for Saturday deliveries…

Ruud Padt (user link) says:


In my opinion telecommuting is possible for professionals but it has to involve every employer AND Yes it can involve every Desk-worker !!!!
This means Team-Building, Training on the job, Trust and unofficial gossip to match ideas….all during Telecommuting
We can give this trough Full-time HQ Video and Audio for every team
Check it out at hr.telebeing in the Netherlands (nl)
or join the linkedin group: “teleworking”

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