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The Dark Side Of Telecommuting

Telecommuting may be great for the people who get to work at home in their jammies, but here's a surprise: It stinks for the folks left back at the office.
Telecommuting may be great for the people who get to work at home in their jammies, but here's a surprise: It stinks for the folks left back at the office.In a classic case of unintended consequences, a new study by professor Timothy Golden at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute indicates that the greater the number of telecommuters at an organization, the less satisfied the office workers were with their jobs, the more likely they were to leave the company, the weaker their emotional ties to coworkers and their feelings of obligation to the organization.

Most observers have focused on teleworking's effects on the people who work at home, but Golden's survey of 240 employees in a medium sized company focuses on the practice's effects on everyone else. Possible reasons for the deleterious effects include the perception that office workers have less flexibility, a higher workload, and additional hassles involved in coordinating a distributed workforce.

Ironically, the suggested cures for these ills closely resemble the advice for making life better for telecommuters themselves: Scheduling more face-to-face contact between coworkers when employees are in the office and giving employees greater job autonomy.

The bottom line: There's no such thing as a free lunch and no good deed goes unpunished. While offering some workers benefits like telecommuting may indeed be worthwhile, you have to be alert to the hidden costs to other workers and the organization as a whole.

Sources: Reuters: Telecommuting not so great for those left in office

The Business Review (Albany, NY): New study says telecommuting can hurt office morale

Network World: Teleworkers can damage main office work environment