Tuesday January 5, 2016

Telecommuting May Perpetuate Increased Telecommuting

A Twitter friend shared a NYT article, yesterday, entitled Telecommuting Can Make the Office a Lonely Place, a Study Says. The <meta description...> tag on this article is "New research finds that off-site work can disrupt teamwork, alienate people who remain in the office and perpetuate increased telecommuting."


Another article about the same survey, published late last year in Business News Daily, is entitled Is Having Too Many Remote Workers Bad for Business?

Is having "too many" remote workers bad for business? I think the answer is... no. It may be "lonely" for some, but I see nothing in either article to indicate that increased remote work is bad for business. Many companies have made remote teams a cornerstone of their business model.

I'm afraid that my sympathy for this study is essentially non-existent. Also, I want the name of the unnamed "Fortune 100 Company in Silicon Valley" (singular) on which the study was based.

I want to apply for a job.

Here are some quotes from the articles referenced:

In a study of a Fortune 100 company in Silicon Valley that freely allowed off-site work, the researchers found that the employees who chose to continue working in the office ended up feeling lonely and disconnected. Many of these people came into work because they desired social interaction, and yet they found themselves deprived of the convivial lunches, spontaneous hallway interactions and impromptu office conversations that can be so energizing. “The office essentially became this isolated wasteland,” Professor [Kevin] Rockmann said in an interview.


"What defines this tipping point is the lack of enough physically present co-workers to motivate individuals to come to the office," the study's authors, Kevin Rockmann of George Mason University and Michael Pratt of Boston College, wrote.

The authors argue, instead, that part of the motivation is that as more and more workers choose to work off-site, those left behind miss out on a primary reason they want to work in the office: social interaction. The researchers said their study revealed that employees who worked largely off-site still missed the social and work benefits of the old office.

I'll let you in on a secret – something we rarely tell our managers because it's not seen as "team-building" – for many employees (probably half), work is not a place we go for social interaction. Work is a place we go to work. (Gasp!)

For these employees, "spontaneous hallway interactions and impromptu office conversations" aren't energizing. They're draining and distracting, especially when we're forced to endure them from the other side of a cubicle wall. Those "convivial lunches" may be a nice break for some (but some of your co-workers hate them).

Let's

According to his study, the decision to work from home became contagious, extending beyond the people who chose it because they truly wanted or needed the flexibility. In short, more people started working from home because everyone else was doing it. And so the office became even more desolate than it already was. One manager said that “in some ways, teamwork no longer existed” at the company after the more flexible policy was enacted.

Teamwork. I don't think that word means what you think it means.

On the basis of their interviews [with 29 employees], the professors developed surveys that they administered to two groups: 242 employees in the same California division and 386 randomly chosen workers from company units all across the country. The surveys asked employees how much of their work time was spent off-site and why they chose this option.

Both groups were given six possible responses. The study's authors found that for both groups, the response, "few people, if any, from my team work in the office much, so I do not benefit from coming in," emerged as the strongest reason for wanting to work remotely.

Sounds like a dream job to me.

Personally, I do not see any downside in the statements "What defines this tipping point is the lack of enough physically present co-workers to motivate individuals to come to the office," or "few people, if any, from my team work in the office much, so I do not benefit from coming in," ... but then, I have rarely benefited from going to the office. Yes, lunch could be enjoyable, (when I liked my co-workers), but most of my in-office time was spent alone in my cubicle (frequently distracted or interrupted by noise and bustle) or in time-wasting meetings. And then, of course, there's the 40-mile-each-way commute.

At my most recent job (5+ years at Yahoo!; ) I started with one telecommute day per week (a requirement for accepting a 90-day contract), moved up to two per week (a requirement for accepting FTR employment), then 3 (after a few years).

I have finally come to accept the fact that my productivity drops substantially on in-office days. On those days, I tried to schedule meetings.

When my last (post-re-org) manager tried to insist that I needed to be "in the office more", I knew the writing was on the wall. That manager lived and worked in Dallas, TX; I was in Sunnyvale, CA. He knew nothing about how I worked and he was never in "the" office (my office); yet he claimed I "needed" to be physically on site.

I was RIF'd a few months before Marissa Mayer took over. I was lucky. If I had still been at Y! when Marissa implemented her no-work-from-home policy, I would have had to leave. At least, as it was, I had severance.

I'm currently looking for contract work. Fulltime, in-office-requirement jobs are non-options. Providing social interaction to my extravert co-workers has never been in my job description. The older (and wiser) I get, the less willing I am to be subjected to enforced "spontaneous collaboration."

Telecommuting May Perpetuate Increased Telecommuting ( in category Special Interests , World of Work ) - posted at Tue, 05 Jan, 13:05 Pacific | «e»

Post a comment

Any posted comments will be viewable by all visitors. Please try to stay relevant ;-) If you simply want to say something to me, please send me email.

All comments will be moderated. Thank you for your consideration.