Employees who work from home feel more connected because they have fewer distractions, debunking the myth that people who telecommute feel isolated and disconnected.
Do you telecommute—or wish you could? Ever since technology has made it possible to perform office tasks at home, people have debated the merits of telecommuting. One of the reasons often cited against the practice is that employees who work from home feel isolated and disconnected. A new study challenges this myth.
Communication and identity
Published in the journal, Communication Monographs, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study involved a group of 89 “teleworkers” and 104 office-based employees. In a series of surveys and interviews, researchers examined how workers communicated and how these forms of communication related to their feelings of closeness to others at the office as well as to feelings of stress due to interruptions. They also looked at the teleworkers’ “sense of identity as part of their organization.”
More communication=more stress=less connected
What they found challenged the long-held belief that employees who work from home need a lot of communication and contact with their organization to minimize a sense of isolation and disconnectedness. Instead they found that “the more teleworkers communicated with others, the more stressed they felt due to interruptions, and this was negatively associated with their identification with the organization.”
Office workers more stressed
The study also found that office workers felt significantly greater levels of stress due to interruptions compared to teleworkers. These stressors were related to interruptions from face-to-face and email communication. The study leader, Kathryn Fonner, says “the study emphasizes a need to address the stress and time pressure associated with the constant barrage of workplace communication for everyone.”
Tips for teleworkers
Late last year, the US government conducted a survey of their federal employees that found those employees who were offered telecommuting options reported significantly higher scores on employee satisfaction. Some advice from seasoned teleworkers to make the experience positive:
- Work in a dedicated room at home that has a door that can be closed and that has everything you need for your work.
- Be sure your work area is ergonomically sound (desk, chair, and lighting).
- Make sure small children are at daycare or with a babysitter.
- Get dressed and work set hours as though you are at the office.
- Remember to step away from the computer occasionally; teleworkers tend to overwork.