Telecommuting Tough on the Office-Bound

Ann All

Last January I blogged about a Korn/Ferry International survey in which 61 percent of global executives said that they'd be less likely to promote telecommuters than their office-bound co-workers. The execs perceived limited networking opportunities and inadequate "face time" with colleagues as problems, according to Korn/Ferry.


Now new research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute management professor Timothy Golden suggests a lack of camaraderie negatively affects co-workers who remain in the office. Golden surveyed 240 employees at an unidentified mid-size company and found that, as the number of telecommuters grew, so did dissatisfaction among their office-bound colleagues.


The office workers found it tough to build relationships with co-workers and felt less loyalty toward the company. They also felt saddled with extra work and experienced difficulties completing projects due to telecommuting, reports Ars Technica.


So does this mean companies should ban telecommuting? That's just not realistic, in light of the growing interest in it.


Marcia Rhodes, the head of public relations for WorldatWork, an association of human resource professionals from Fortune 500 and other leading organizations, told me in a November interview that the group is "seeing strong growth in programs that are low-cost but highly valued by employees" -- including telecommuting. She says:

We expect telework programs to grow with the mass availability and affordability of mobile devices coupled with a marked shift in employers' attitudes -- many are beginning to accept that to attract the best talent, they may have to look beyond their borders to other states and even countries. Some of your best workers are going to be virtual workers, there's just no two ways about that!

To address the needs of employees who remain in the office, Golden suggests managing the amount of time co-workers telecommute, requiring them to come to the office at least some of the time, and giving office-based workers more job autonomy.


Chances are, most telecommuters would welcome at least some interaction with fellow employees. As I blogged in September, some choose to work part of the time in public spaces like Starbucks because they miss human contact.

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Jan 14, 2008 3:05 PM Chuck Wilsker Chuck Wilsker  says:
Validity of Conclusions in Research Findings Questioned by Telework CoalitionAfter 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 companys 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. Goldens study none of the distributed work programs 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 companys 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 CoalitionWashington, DCwww.TelCoa.org Info@TelCoa.org Reply
Jan 15, 2009 3:57 PM Teleworkers Teleworkers  says:
Teleworking should never be a problem for the employers as it is the most convenient and best yielding phenomenon of recent times, that's been proven to be successful with many organisations. Reply

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