Researchers behind a 2010 Mineta Transportation Institute study of telecommuters sought to get a better understanding of the factors that affect telecommuting adoption. The study examined the extent of telecommuting (the number of days per week spent telecommuting) on the attitudes and behaviors of employees.
The authors found that telecommuters were more committed to the organization and more satisfied with life in general than non-telecommuters. These results are probably unsurprising to most teleworkers. However, what may be somewhat surprising is that there appears to be an optimal amount of telecommuting when it comes to commitment and satisfaction. Check out the graphs below (note, these are my graphs interpreting the data, not from the actual study).
As telecommuting rises, organizational commitment and satisfaction rise while turnover intentions fall. To a point. But why? Why isn’t this more of a linear trend? Why does fulltime telecommuting negatively impact attitudes of employees?
Follow up interviews and focus groups indicate that the employee attitudes, in part, are the result of senior management resistance. Lack of senior management support and a mindset that “you have to be physically present to be effective” makes introducing telecommuting very challenging. Why would employees want to telecommute if they thought it would be held against them?
Senior managers can gain the full benefits of telecommuting (or teleworking) by implementing change management plans, creating the value proposition, communicating expectations, and allowing time to address concerns. Pilots can be conducted and lessons learned can be incorporated prior to a larger implementation. Success stories should also be shared to create momentum.
Extreme telecommuting should result in an extreme benefits for employees and the organization. However, changing the attitude of management is the necessary precursor to successful implementation.