Teleworkers experience less information overload

The University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee recently announced the findings of some research that is no surprise to me. An overwhelming majority of teleworkers were happier on the job than their on-site colleagues. Even the commonly cited “worker alienation” phenomenon didn’t arise in this survey. Those who worked three times a week from their homes found a dramatic decrease in work-life conflicts. Working from home alleviates the stress of being ‘off-site’ when something happens on the domestic scene and the tension of being continuously ‘on-site’ in an office environment with colleagues.

The study was conducted by Kathryn Fonner, UWM assistant professor of communication, and Michael Roloff, a professor of communication studies at Northwestern University. The authors examined the advantages and disadvantages of remote working versus an office setting. A paper outlining the results appeared in the November 2010 issue of the Journal of Applied Communication Research.

Although teleworkers reported exchanging information with others less frequently than office-based employees, both groups found they had virtually equal access to important work-related information.

Some of the most interesting findings for the reasons why job satisfaction is so high among remote workers is:

They have less exposure to much of the distracting and stressful aspects of the workplace, such as office politics, interruptions, constant meetings and information overload.

In an article that ran on the UWM Web site, Fonner is quoted as saying, “Our findings emphasize the advantages of restricted face-to-face interaction, and also highlight the need for organizations to identify and address the problematic and unsatisfying issues inherent in collocated work environments. With lower stress and fewer distractions, employees can prevent work from seeping into their personal lives.”

As a long-time teleworker myself, I find that some days it is hard to turn off the computer and turn on my other roles as wife and mother when I am on deadline, a client is having a particular challenge or a phone call runs into the dinner hour.

I found Fonner’s other suggestions for maintaining a power of slow attitude to your at-home work arrangement to be particularly helpful. She suggests:

* Limiting meetings and the number of emails.
* Streamlining office communication by creating an easily accessible library of information that can be called upon at will.
* Designating times and office space for uninterrupted moments for office-based workers.
* Maintaining a supportive work environment in which employees can air concerns without fear of retaliation.
* And my ultimate favorite power of slow recommendation: Encouraging employees to unplug after hours.

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