Telecommuting And Its Effects On Performance Levels At Work
Until recently, there has been very little evidence about the effects of telecommuting on work performance. The general assumption has been that telecommuters suffer in contrast to their office based colleagues in terms of performance levels, motivation and employee engagement.
However a new study by Ravi S. Gajendran, Professor of business administration at the University of Illinois, David Harrison of the University of Texas and Kelly Delaney-Klinger of the University of Wisconsin, demonstrates that rather than having a negative impact, telecommuting can have a modest positive effect.
In the research, 323 employees were studied along with 143 supervisors who they worked for. The field data was taken from multiple companies across a number of industries and there were a couple of interesting findings:
1) There is a slight increase in performance when an employee decides to telecommute.
2) The relationship with a boss depends on how significant the performance increase is when telecommuting. The better the relationship you have with your boss, the less likely you are to gain in performance from telecommuting. Those who have the worst relationships with their bosses tend to work better away from the office.
The reasons behind the increase in performance is theorised to be due to telecommuters wanting to be “good citizens”, according to the researchers. They don’t want co-workers resenting the fact that they are allowed to telecommute so they work harder to ensure that their special arrangement with their boss is shown to be justified. They want to give “something back” to their boss as a show of appreciation.
This works particularly well if the relationship between the boss and the employee is difficult simply because the employee is motivated to make sure that the telecommuting arrangement isn’t taken away from them.