Remote work reduces stress? Maybe. Some caveats do apply.

I read this article during the week about how remote working (telecommuting) can be effective in reducing the work-related stress for all participants.  The article cited the following benefits:

  • Giving employees more control over how they do their work
  • Mildly positive effects on employee morale, on work-family balance and on stress

Whilst I agree with these findings, I would add some pretty big caveats. 

Firstly, while nearly everyone would claim to want more control over how they do their work, in practice this is not necessarily the case.  The first thing that you learn when it comes to a remote workforce is that you cannot take a single set of principles and apply them uniformly.  For example, some people require a lot of structure in their daily working lives and can find that they lack motivation or direction when thrown into, what can often be a much more self-directed and unstructured world of the remote worker.

And while the lack of structure that the remote worker is faced with can negate the positive effects of providing employees with more control, the other cited benefits also have negative potential that require due consideration.  Take employee morale for example – do you think that all people enjoy having very limited human interaction with their co-workers? 

Reduce family stress?  Again, in some circumstances, I’ve seen remote workers crumble under the expectation from their families that being at home equates to being ‘at home’.

The final benefit – improved work-family balance – also has potentially harmful effects that you need to consider.  Some employees have found that, when working from home for example, that they feel as though they are always at work.

I’m a huge advocate of the remote, mobile worker lifestyle and personally, I’ve enjoyed the exact benefits that are mentioned in the article.  My reason for writing this article though is to highlight that when managing a remote/virtual/mobile/telecommuting workforce, there are things that you need to take account of.


~ by D on November 25, 2007.

6 Responses to “Remote work reduces stress? Maybe. Some caveats do apply.”

  1. One of the big things I see as an advantage to working from home is the reduction in travel time to and from work. I currently have to travel into Melbourne each day from regional Victoria which adds over 12 hours to my work week (that is, the time I\’m not at home). It also means I can\’t attend cricket training and worse still, I usually don\’t get to see my son during the week as he\’s still in bed when I leave and off to sleep by the time I get home. Playing cricket on a Saturday afternoon takes away 25% of my weekend, which leaves me with very little time to a) rest, and b) be with my family. Working from home, even just one or two days a week, would make a huge difference to my current work/life balance.

  2. Damo, don\’t get me wrong, I\’m sure that you know I agree totally with what you are saying.  I\’m planning to write a separate blog entry about "how to enjoy the benefits of remote/mobile working".

  3. I had the opportunity to remote work for 6 months. Initially it was an enjoyable experience, but I soon tired of it. Like Damo says, I think a healthy balance is needed – 1 or 2 days a week would be my guess. I found when I was working from home that I couldn\’t escape work. Most people say "just turn the computer off", or "put it in another room" but being a geek, my recreation time is also on the computer and I found it very difficult to switch off from work and do something else. The work was always there.
    Now as an independent contractor I\’m throughly enjoying the flexibility of managing my own hours – if I need to go to the bank, or want to spend an extra hour blogging in the morning – it\’s completely up to me how I manage my time.

  4. Why do these articles always assume the remote worker has a family? Us single people exist too! 🙂

  5. Grant, but how would working in a cubicled environment have helped you?  Even if you had worked in a cubicled environment, you\’d still have to come home and you\’d be in the same situation.  In which case, it will be interesting to see whether you face the same challenges as a contractor.


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