Telecommuting

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 arrangements (Allen 2015a*, Gajendran 2007*).

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

  • Reduced stress

  • Improved mental health

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that telecommuting improves job satisfaction (Lee 2018b*, Allen 2015a*, Gajendran 2007*) and work-life balance (Gajendran 2007*). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Job satisfaction appears to be highest among those who telecommute a moderate amount (Allen 2015a*), approximately 15 hours per week in one large high-tech firm (Golden 2005). Telecommuting can decrease stress among participating employees, increase perceived autonomy (Gajendran 2007*), and may reduce turnover (Lee 2018b*, Choi 2018a*, Allen 2015a*, Bloom 2015*, Gajendran 2007*).

Overall, telecommuting does not appear to affect relationships with coworkers (Gajendran 2007*); however, high intensity telecommuting can degrade those relationships (Allen 2015a*, Gajendran 2007*, Golden 2007*) and may increase coworkers’ turnover intentions (Golden 2007*). Telecommuting may improve relationships with supervisors and increase supervisor-rated performance (Gajendran 2007*); 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 support (Golden 2019*). Manager trust appears to be an important factor in determining which employees receive permission to telecommute (Kaplan 2018a*).

Overall, telecommuting appears to reduce conflict between work and family responsibilities; the more time spent telecommuting, the greater the reduction in work interfering with family (Allen 2015a*, Gajendran 2007*). However, some studies suggest an increase in family interfering with work for telecommuters, particularly for those with larger households (Golden 2006).

Experts suggest that telecommuting may expand work opportunities for individuals with disabilities as well as individuals in rural areas (Allen 2015a*). While telecommuters typically perceive no change in career prospects (Gajendran 2007*), a China-based study of individuals selected to work from home full-time suggests a decline in telecommuters’ performance-based promotions despite improvements in performance (Bloom 2015*).

Telecommuting a few days per week may decrease risk factors for poor health (Henke 2016*). Telecommuting may also increase physical activity and the likelihood of engaging in active transit, such as biking and walking (Chakrabarti 2018*). Telecommuters appear to be less likely to drive greater than 10 miles (Chakrabarti 2018*), but do not appear to significantly reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled per week overall (Allen 2015a*).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

As of 2017, 74% of employers offer some form of telecommuting (IFEBP 2017), and an estimated 23% of workers work part of their day at home (US DOL-ENS 2017).

The Telework enhancement Act of 2010 requires all federal executive agencies to have a policy allowing eligible employees to telework (Allen 2015a*). The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) provide extensive information to support federal agencies that implement telework programs (US OPM-Telework). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an example of a government agency that has official policies in place outlining available options (US FDA-Worklife).

Implementation Resources

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.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Chakrabarti 2018* - Chakrabarti S. Does telecommuting promote sustainable travel and physical activity? Journal of Transport and Health. 2018;9:19-33.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

IFEBP 2017 - International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP). Flexible work arrangements: 2017 survey results.

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.

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.

US OPM-Telework - United States Office of Personnel Management (US OPM). Telework.gov.

US FDA-Worklife - US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA). Working at FDA. Quality of worklife.

Date Last Updated