Some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of telecommuting can be explained by job characteristic theory, which proposes that the traits and tasks of the job itself affect employees’ work attitudes and behavior. If five characteristics of a job are present (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback), then the employee in that job will experience more internal work motivation, satisfaction with personal growth opportunities, general job satisfaction, higher job performance, and lower absenteeism and turnover. Many studies have provided evidence that job characteristics influence employees’ behaviors and attitudes. Additionally, job characteristics can interact with individual differences to impact employee attitudes and behavior. Of these five job characteristics, telework specifically changes autonomy and feedback compared to face-to-face work and can thus influence employees’ behaviors and attitudes. According to Job Characteristics Theory, changes in autonomy and feedback influence work behaviors and attitudes more than a change in skill variety, task identity, or task significance.
Motivator-hygiene theory differentiates between motivating factors (motivators) and dissatisfying factors (hygienes). Factors that are motivators such as recognition and career advancement may be lessened with telework. When teleworkers are not physically present, they may be “out of sight, out of mind” to other workers in the office. Additionally, telework may not always be seen positively by management due to fear of loss of managerial control. A 2008 study found that more time spent telecommuting decreased the perception of productivity of the teleworker in the eyes of management. Hygiene factors, such as work conditions, may improve when teleworking such that teleworkers have the flexibility to work in a variety of locations. Thus, telework has different work motivating factors and dissatisfying factors than office work.
But once you’re in your home office—alone, every day—you might start to miss that collegial camaraderie. Since the UPS incident, I’ve reached out more to colleagues via IM and will post cute pics of my new puppy for my colleagues to see on Yammer. And when we’re on deadline, we even (gasp!) talk on the phone. It’s helped tremendously to make the disconnect not feel so severe. It’s a good balance between having peace and quiet when you need it and much-needed interaction with others, too.
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