Conventional wisdom says that teleworkers can be at a disadvantage due to the lack of face to face interaction. What about all the conversations around the water cooler, people often ask me. Traditional office-bound workers benefit from the casual conversations that can occur anywhere in the office place and the in-person interactions. Don’t teleworkers feel alienated and disengaged? Not so, says a study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The study found that teleworkers had higher job satisfaction than workers in traditional work assignments. No surprise there, I thought, since there have been multiple studies that have reported similar findings. However, the reasons behind the UWM findings are interesting. Researchers found that teleworking prevents employees from becoming distracted from things like office politics, interruptions, endless meetings and information overload. One of the authors of the study, Kathryn Fonner, referred to this as the “advantages of restricted face-to-face interaction.”
Is too much face time a bad thing? From personal experience, I agree with the UWM study. I remember working in an office environment for a company that was constantly in turmoil. The constant rumors about layoffs, never ending organizational changes, and posturing by some managers was draining. Now, having worked from a home office for several years, I am shielded from distracting matters that don’t directly impact my job. Because of this, I feel more productive and am definitely happier. I’m not saying to never meet up in-person (keep in mind that the UWM study was based on teleworkers that worked remotely or telecommute 3 days a week). A blend of interactions is best. Just don’t think teleworkers feel left out because they’re not bumping into their colleagues in the breakroom or staring at each other across the meeting table.
What do you think? How much face time is necessary or desired?