Yesterday, MSNBC online ran a story titled, “Telecommuting might be wrong answer for stressed out parents.” The accompanying picture shows a woman working on her computer while holding a newborn in her arms while another child is in the background. C’mon, is that really telework? Unfortunately for many managers this is the perception of what will happen to employees if they work from home.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen similar headlines such as “Working from home is exhausting” or “Working from home is harmful to some employees.” Seriously? In the immortal words of Flavor Flav, don’t believe the hype.
The MSNBC story, as well as the other articles, cite a recent study conducted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor Timothy Golden published in the Journal of Business and Psychology. Golden surveyed 316 employees from a large computer company to understand the use of computer technology to work from home and how people experience exhaustion. According to Golden, the more work and family demands conflict, the more people suffer from exhaustion. Sounds intuitive, right? So, workers with high levels of work-family conflicts suffer higher exhaustion when they spend extensive time working from home, regardless if they work traditional or non-traditional work hours. Employees with low work-life conflict suffer less exhaustion, which is further reduced by working from home.
My issue is that many of the recent headlines are slightly misleading. Let’s face it, working from home is not the main contributing factor the exhaustion of the surveyed employees. Difficulty balancing work and personal commitments will make anyone stressed over time, regardless of where they work.
Here are a couple of tips that can help you or your employees:
- Set boundaries. As I mentioned in a previous post, teleworkers tend to work more hours than traditional office workers. Great for productivity, but this may negatively impact your family life. I often hear teleworkers complain that they have a hard time turning off. Like a fly to the light, they are drawn to their computer. Learn to put down your smart phone, laptop, or tablet. Schedule daily off time if you have to. Working from home provides great flexibility, just don’t try to juggle everything at once.
- Prioritize. Set some daily priorities – both work and personal. What really needs to get done? Become outcome oriented and don’t get bogged down by the other distractions that may pop up and try to grab your attention.
- Communicate. You can avoid the majority of the conflict on the home front by keeping the lines of communication open with your spouse, partner, kids, and/or roommates. Make sure they know boundaries and priorities too.
- Create a real home office. I’ve people that consider their dining room table their home office. Sure, it works in a pinch but may not be a good idea in the long run. A dedicated home office can help separate you from the distractions and also allow you to break away from work when you are off.
Drink more coffee,