Telecommuting's Powerful Benefits
More than 34 million Americans telecommute at least occasionally. While it might not be for everyone, the future of telework appears bright.
In my posts on telework, including the one I wrote this morning about the Telework Enhancement Act recently passed by the U.S. Senate, it's hard to keep my pro-telework bias from showing. I've been telecommuting regularly for a dozen years. In fact, I'm working from home today. As frequently happens, I am farther down my "to do" list than I would be if I were working at the office. When I really want to be productive at the office, I sometimes begin my work at home before driving in -- which feels kind of messed up to me.
I've met the rare person who finds it difficult to focus when working at home, but most folks I know think they are more productive when they telework. Now there's a new Brigham Young University study that seems to back this up. Increased productivity is due largely to the better work-life balance telecommuters believe they enjoy. As Science Centric reports, telecommuters could work 19 more hours than office-bound workers before feeling that work was interfering with their personal life.
Office workers on a regular schedule told university researchers they felt the strain at 38 hours a week. Those with flexible schedules and the option to telecommute could work 57 hours a week before experiencing conflict. This may be because teleworkers can more easily wedge in tasks that ease non-work hours while they are working at home. For instance, I almost always do a few loads of laundry on telecommuting days. I can straighten the living room or scour a sink while suffering from writer's block at home. Getting these tasks accomplished during the day leaves me less stressed later. At the office, I usually get a snack and/or open Facebook.
Telecommuting must be combined with flextime to effectively reduce work-life conflict, said E. Jeffrey Hill, a professor in BYU's School of Family Life and lead author of the study. A typical high-flexibility work arrangement includes a mix of office time and telework, allowing employees to change the venue to best suit the tasks they need to accomplish.
Hill was a telecommuting IBM employee before joining BYU's faculty. There's been a distinct change in the way Big Blue views telecommuting in the past decade, he said. While managers initially worried about a loss in productivity among telecommuting employees, now more than 80 percent of IBM managers believe productivity increases in a flexible environment.