Study Finds Teleworkers Can Handle More Work Before Feeling Strain

Ann All
Slide Show

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.


Like most teleworkers, I also appreciate the opportunity to start my work early, finish late or otherwise shift my work day to better accommodate my family's schedule. I was able to attend my son's awards day ceremony at school last week since I was teleworking. While I could have left the office to do so, it would have involved at least 40 more minutes of drive time and been at least semi-stressful.


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.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 4, 2010 4:11 PM Laula Laula  says:

People work too much - I believe as employers, employees and self-employed, we all can all try harder to find balance between work and life. Time for YOU.I believe that 21hours could be the basic working week as opposed to the massive 40hours (or a lot more). It is too much and cannot be sustained for a lifetime. People are not machines.

The Future of Work

The moral basis for 21hours a week is upon the idea (I believe) that if living standards are improved (for example - time for leisure, health, good food, family etc.) that people will get by with less money. There may be some middle way between the existing system and an imposed 21 hour working week. Germany would entertain this idea at least as their culture is very family orientated (for instance - they do not open their shops on a Sunday so people who work in the retail sector do not have to work on this day). Here in Britain, on the other hand, this would never wash. We work the most hours in Europe.

Jun 7, 2010 6:56 PM Sshah Sshah  says:

I agree 1005 to what you wrote here.  What I love about telecommuting/freelancing is the freedom to add variety in what I do everyday, wherever and whenever I can.  I work on projects I love and not something dictated for me to do.  On the plus, whenever I feel tired, I can easily take a 30-minute to an hour of power nap, which is something of a luxury when you're working in the office.  I think these are reasons why we can handle stress better - because we simply love what we do ( even if we have to work on multiple projects with tight deadlines ).  Cheers!

May 17, 2011 5:00 PM JC JC  says:

Very interesting discussion but I checked the link you provided and it now seems to be broken (I do realise ive come to the party pretty late re: this discussion). I also looked at the resources section on the Ceridian site - it does not appear to be there either which is a shame as I'd liked to have seen the article your comments were based on.

Considering I spend 2 hours a day travelling to work (and the same back again) I could certainly get behind a 21 hour week!


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