MIAMI--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Telecommuting contributes to improved job performance for employees in complex jobs, allowing them to benefit from fewer interruptions common in an office setting, research from Florida International University’s College of Business (FIU Business) finds. Until now, little research has examined how telecommuting helps performance or the types of jobs that benefit from this increasingly prevalent practice.
Overall, telecommuting has little negative impact on performance, even in jobs that require frequent interaction and communication with others, the research indicates.
“We find that for most job characteristics we examine in our study, telecommuting doesn’t significantly hurt job performance,” said Ravi Gajendran, assistant professor of global leadership and management at FIU Business. “For some job features, performance is better with more extensive telecommuting and in others, the impact is neutral.”
The findings, published in the August 2018 issue of the Journal of Business and Psychology, examined job complexity and problem solving as well as interdependence and social support, to determine the telecommuting–job performance relationship.
“People often think of telecommuting in terms of its implications for work-family balance. But focusing on its flexibility benefits alone does not provide a complete picture of potential upsides for employees and organizations,” Gajendran said. “Telecommuting can, under the right circumstances, deliver improved performance. You can design a job or an office to improve performance or think of telecommuting to enhance employee performance in jobs with certain features.”
The study tested data from a random sample of 273 telecommuters and their supervisors at an organization with a voluntary telecommuting program.
One surprising result: telecommuting improved job performance when social support from co-workers or managers is low, suggesting perhaps that distance buffers employees from the downsides of unsupportive relationships at work.
“If you don’t have a supportive environment, maybe you’re better off being away from it,” said Gajendran.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2017 American Time Use Survey indicated that 23 percent of U.S. employees did some or all of their work at home.
Gajendran and co-author Timothy Golden, professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management, agree more is needed.
“We haven’t done a good job of understanding how electronic communication can substitute face-to-face interaction; the thought is that when you’re away from the office something suffers,” said Gajendran.