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.