The more teleworkers you have on staff, the more dissatisfied your nonteleworking employees are likely to be with their jobs. And, compared to employees who only work face to face with colleagues, they’re more likely to change jobs.
Those are the findings of a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor who studied the impact teleworking has on the employees left in the office. Timothy Golden, an associate professor in the Lally School of Management & Technology, says officebound staff members have two main problems with their teleworking colleagues:
1. They’re not around when their co-workers need them. Some tasks, notes Golden, require face-to-face interaction, which can’t happen if the telecommuter is working from home when an office worker is ready to collaborate. Nonteleworkers have to adjust their work activity around the schedules of the teleworkers.
2. Office-based employees wind up doing the telecommuter’s work. When something urgent comes up, it’s quicker for a manager to assign it to them than to contact the teleworker.
If your organization allows telework, encourage managers to take three steps to prevent resentment from building among those who remain in the office.
1. Consider teleworking’s impact not only on employees who work from home and their managers, but also on their colleagues who work in the office every day.
2. Arrange for extra interaction between teleworkers and their office-only colleagues when they are in the office. Schedule face-to-face meetings and lunches so employees can bond. Golden says chance meetings in hallways and at the coffee station help in-office employees get to know and like each other. Teleworkers miss those opportunities.
3. Limit the amount of an office-based employee’s work that depends on a telecommuter’s input. Nonteleworkers in Golden’s study reported greater satisfaction with their co-workers when they had greater job autonomy and didn’t feel restricted by the absence of the teleworkers.
Bottom line: Telework isn’t going away. In fact, the number of teleworkers is expected to grow by about 11% a year.
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