Moving from the barriers of the cubicle to working from home, also called telework, is a technology-based advancement that is relatively new to the world of work. It is estimated that one in four Americans telework, which basically refers to working from home or another convenient location based on an employee’s residence. The increasing popularity of teleworking within the past three decades has lead to a plethora of research on the topic. This research reveals mixed findings on the employee-related outcomes of teleworking.
Several studies suggest that telework has a positive relationship with job satisfaction, work-family balance, stress reduction, autonomy, and reduced intention to turnover. However, teleworking can also lead to perceptions of professional isolation, exclusion from the workplace, family-to-work interference, and increased dissatisfaction among coworkers. Despite the mixed findings on the outcomes of teleworking, there has been limited research comparing how employees feel, or their affective well-being, when teleworking versus working from the office.
DOES TELEWORKING MAKE US FEEL HAPPIER?
In the current article, Anderson, Kaplan, and Vega (2015) hypothesized that the different events that employees experience at work influence their affective states (how they feel), which then alter attitudes and behavior. In other words, having positive experiences while teleworking will result in a positive mood. The authors theorized that the teleworking environment lends itself to more positive experiences and fewer negative experiences due to reduced or no commuting to work, fewer interruptions, and increased autonomy, control, schedule flexibility, and goal achievement.
The authors examined the affect (or feelings) of employees from a large federal agency on days that they were teleworking and days that they worked from the office. The authors measured positive and negative affect separately, and found that positive affect is associated with enthusiasm, alertness, and happiness, while negative affect is associated with fear, anxiety, and guilt. The study found that on days that they were teleworking, employees reported greater job-related positive affective well-being (or feeling good about work), and less job-related negative affective well-being (feeling bad about work) than on the days that they were working in the office.
INDIVIDUAL CHARACTERISTICS THAT INFLUENCE AFFECT
The study also revealed that certain individual differences or personality traits influence the relationship between teleworking and affective well-being. Individuals that ruminate, which means repetitively and passively attending to one’s negative emotions, experienced less of an increase in positive emotions when teleworking as compared to the office setting. On the other hand, individuals that ranked higher on the openness to experience personality characteristic, which is described as creativity, curiosity, and need for variety, had a greater increase in positive affect while teleworking. Even more, individuals that were highly connected outside of work, or felt in touch and emotionally connected with people outside of work, experienced higher levels of positive affect and lower levels of negative affect whilst teleworking. The authors also considered sensation seeking, but found that it did not yield significant results.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE WORKPLACE
In all, this study demonstrates that teleworking may be more beneficial for certain employees, which has implications for the workplace. Employees that telework can ensure more positive experiences by establishing and maintaining social connections outside of work. Likewise, managers should be cognizant of employees with certain traits (rumination and low in openness to experience), as well as those who have few social connections outside of work so that that they can monitor them appropriately to determine if telework is right for them. Lastly, allowing employees to telework can boost affective well-being in employees, which may help increase job satisfaction and reduce turnover. In today’s technological age, teleworking is an easy way to keep employees happy. And happy employees make productive employees!