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Flexible Work Arrangements

Autonomy is Major

Psychologists looking over 46 studies on telecommuting, the studies representing 20 years worth of research and involving 12,833 employees, have determined that telecommuting has only positive benefits for both employees and their bosses. According to lead author of the report, Ravi S. Gajendran, "Our results show that telecommuting has an overall beneficial effect because the arrangement provides employees with more control over how they do their work. Autonomy is a major factor in worker satisfaction and this rings true in our analysis."

The report, published in the November 2007 issue of Journal of Applied Psychology, suggests that telecommuters have greater job satisfaction, more motivation to stay with their companies, lowered stress levels as compared with office workers, a better balance between work and family, and a higher performance rating when evaluated by their supervisors. And that's why the number of telecommuters has been at a steady incline. In 2003, there were 41 million American telecommuters, but in 2006, the number of telecommuters had risen to 45 million. Telecommuting is defined as an alternative work arrangement in which the employees work elsewhere than in the office at least part time, using electronic media for organizational interaction.

No Pressure

Gajendran and David A. Harrison, PhD, a fellow researcher from Penn State, found that the benefits of working outside of the office far outweigh the deficits. Those who work at home have more freedom to work when and how they wish, and there's no pressure such as that invoked by the need to relate face-to-face with a scary supervisor or boss. The flexibility involved in telecommuting helped workers to balance the conflicts that tend to arise in dealing with both family and work.

While it is often stated that telecommuting detracts from work relationships due to the lack of face time, the researchers found that there is no basis to this belief except in the case of those employees who telecommute more than 3 days a week. Such employees maintained that their work relationships with coworkers had worsened as a result of their being outside of the office. However, their managers saw things in a different light, reporting that there was no negative impact on the work performance of telecommuters. Even better, the telecommuters reported that they did not feel their careers were held back as a result of their telecommuting.

Of the many participants in this meta-analysis, most were managers or professionals in information technology or sales and marketing with a mean age of 39 and an equal representation of the sexes. Women seemed to derive the most benefits from telecommuting. Their supervisors gave them higher marks in performance and the women felt their careers advanced as a result of the greater flexibility of their work arrangements.

The authors of the study conclude that telecommuting has a positive effect on many areas of an employee's life and believe that employers may benefit by opening up new telecommuting opportunities for those under their employ.

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