Workers' propensity to telecommute: An empirical study
Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 3007 Pamplin Hall, Blacksburg VA 24061, USA
Received 20 April 1998; accepted 12 October 1998
Today's telecommuting workforce encompasses all categories of workers including managers, professionals and other knowledge workers. While organizations have the choice of mandating telecommuting or offering it as an option, individuals also have the choice of participating or not when telecommuting is optional. This research investigated whether individual factors, such as age, skills, identi®cation with organization, or job category in¯uenced these individuals' decisions to telecommute or not. A survey of telecommuters and non-telecommuters was conducted in two large work groups working for a high technology organization. Job category and gender showed a signi®cant difference between telecommuters and nontelecommuters. Age, years with organization, and computer skills did not show signi®cant differences. Reasons provided by respondents for opting not to telecommute are discussed. In addition, a comparison of perceived productivity, performance, sense of personal control, and satisfaction between telecommuters and non-telecommuters was performed. Differences were found between telecommuters and non-telecommuters in their ratings of personal control and productivity. The paper concludes with suggestions for practitioners and recommendations for future research. # 1999 Published by Elsevier Science
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Keywords: Distributed work; Telecommuting; Individual characteristics; Telecommuting outcomes; Telecommuting objectives; Propensity to telecommute
Working from home instead of going to an of®ce is not a new phenomenon. Two major characteristics, however, differentiate today's homeworkers from those of the `cottage industry': ®rst, they typically have a communication link to their of®ce, and second, more and more of them are knowledge workers such as professionals and managers. Recent studies have
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de®ned telecommuting as working away from the traditional of®ce using computers and telecommunications facilities to maintain a link to the of®ce .
The reasons for the growth of this phenomenon, and the interest it has generated in recent years, are found in its expected bene®ts. Some of those discussed in the literature include increases in productivity, increases in job satisfaction, lower turnover rates, savings of of®ce space, increased ¯exibility and improved employee morale, to name only a few. Few organizations, however, have been able to objectively measure these expected bene®ts.
0378-7206/99/$ ± see front matter # 1999 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved
F. Belanger / Information & Management 35 (1999) 139±153
Early telecommuting research often warned of the potential of exploitation for workers involved in this type of work arrangement [6, 7, 8, 18, 20, 21, 24].
Workers were said to have less bargaining power with their employers when they were forced to work at home instead of at an of®ce. Conversely, employers were believed to make this arrangement available as a fringe bene®t to those employees who were said to have strong relative bargaining power. For example, today many employers advertise the possibility of telecommuting as a bene®t of employment in their efforts to recruit professionals (this is especially evident for jobs advertised on the Internet). So while mandated telecommuting can be seen as a potential negative arrangement for some workers, optional telecommuting could be regarded as a bene®t. 1.1. Purpose of the study
The process of selecting