Telecommuting arrangements allow employees to work a portion of their typical work hours outside of a central workplace, using technology to perform tasks and interact with others inside and outside of the organization. Work is typically performed in the employee’s home, and occasionally in other locations. Telecommuting arrangements can range from a few hours per week to nearly full-time and may be formal or informal. Telecommuting is sometimes referred to as remote work, telework, or flexible working arrangements1, 2.
Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)
Increased job satisfaction
Improved work-life balance
Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes
Improved employee performance
Improved health outcomes
Increased physical activity
Increased active transportation
Improved mental health
Evidence of Effectiveness
Job satisfaction appears to be highest among those who telecommute a moderate amount1, approximately 15 hours per week in one large high-tech firm4. Telecommuting can decrease stress among participating employees, increase perceived autonomy2, and may reduce turnover1, 2, 3, 5, 6.
Overall, telecommuting does not appear to affect relationships with coworkers2; however, high intensity telecommuting can degrade those relationships1, 2, 7 and may increase coworkers’ turnover intentions7. Telecommuting may improve relationships with supervisors and increase supervisor-rated performance2; a survey of a single employer, for example, suggests gains in supervisor-rated performance for telecommuting workers with complex jobs, those whose jobs involve low levels of interdependence with other workers, and those in jobs with low levels of social support8. Manager trust appears to be an important factor in determining which employees receive permission to telecommute9.
Overall, telecommuting appears to reduce conflict between work and family responsibilities; the more time spent telecommuting, the greater the reduction in work interfering with family1, 2. However, some studies suggest an increase in family interfering with work for telecommuters, particularly for those with larger households10.
Experts suggest that telecommuting may expand work opportunities for individuals with disabilities as well as individuals in rural areas1. While telecommuters typically perceive no change in career prospects2, a China-based study of individuals selected to work from home full-time suggests a decline in telecommuters’ performance-based promotions despite improvements in performance6.
Telecommuting a few days per week may decrease risk factors for poor health11. Telecommuting may also increase physical activity and the likelihood of engaging in active transit, such as biking and walking12. Telecommuters appear to be less likely to drive greater than 10 miles12, but do not appear to significantly reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled per week overall1.
Impact on Disparities
The Telework enhancement Act of 2010 requires all federal executive agencies to have a policy allowing eligible employees to telework1. The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) provide extensive information to support federal agencies that implement telework programs15. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an example of a government agency that has official policies in place outlining available options16.
MSU-Gallardo 2016 - Gallardo R. Work in place: A telework-friendly policy framework. Mississippi State University Extension. 2016:1-3
US OPM-Telework - United States Office of Personnel Management (US OPM). Telework.gov.
US OPM-Telework solutions - United States Office of Personnel Management (US OPM). Telework Solutions.
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1 Allen 2015a* - Allen TD, Golden TD, Shockley KM. How effective is telecommuting? Assessing the status of our scientific findings. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 2015;16(2):40-68.
2 Gajendran 2007* - Gajendran RS, Harrison DA. The good, the bad, and the unknown about telecommuting: Meta-analysis of psychological mediators and individual consequences. Journal of Applied Psychology. 2007;92(6):1524-1541.
3 Lee 2018b* - Lee D, Kim SY. A quasi-experimental examination of telework eligibility and participation in the U.S. Federal Government. Review of Public Personnel Administration. 2018;38(4):451-471.
4 Golden 2005 - Golden TD, Veiga JF. The impact of extent of telecommuting on job satisfaction: Resolving inconsistent findings. Journal of Management. 2005;31(2):301-318.
5 Choi 2018a* - Choi S. Managing flexible work arrangements in government: Testing the effects of institutional and managerial support. Public Personnel Management. 2018;47(1):26-50.
6 Bloom 2015* - Bloom N, Liang J, Roberts J, Ying ZJ. Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 2015;130(1):165-218.
7 Golden 2007* - Golden T. Co-workers who telework and the impact on those in the office: Understanding the implications of virtual work for co-worker satisfaction and turnover intentions. Human Relations. 2007;60(11):1641-1667.
8 Golden 2019* - Golden TD, Gajendran RS. Unpacking the role of a telecommuter’s job in their performance: Examining job complexity, problem solving, interdependence, and social support. Journal of Business and Psychology. 2019;34(1):55-69.
9 Kaplan 2018a* - Kaplan S, Engelsted L, Lei X, Lockwood K. Unpackaging manager mistrust in allowing telework: Comparing and integrating theoretical perspectives. Journal of Business and Psychology. 2018;33(3):365-382.
10 Golden 2006 - Golden TD, Veiga JF, Simsek Z. Telecommuting’s differential impact on work-family conflict: Is there no place like home? Journal of Applied Psychology. 2006;91(6):1340-1350.
11 Henke 2016* - Henke RM, Benevent R, Schulte P, et al. The effects of telecommuting intensity on employee health. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2016;30(8):604-612.
12 Chakrabarti 2018* - Chakrabarti S. Does telecommuting promote sustainable travel and physical activity? Journal of Transport and Health. 2018;9:19-33.
13 IFEBP 2017 - International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP). Flexible work arrangements: 2017 survey results.
14 US DOL-ENS 2017 - US Department of Labor (US DOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Economic news release: Table 5. Employed persons working at home, workplace, and teime spent working at each location by full- and part-time status and sex, jobholding status, and educational attainment, 2017 annual averages. June 2018.
15 US OPM-Telework - United States Office of Personnel Management (US OPM). Telework.gov.
16 US FDA-Worklife - US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA). Working at FDA. Quality of worklife.
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