Working from home might seem to be the ideal remedy for tensions between your career and personal life. Who wouldn’t love flexible hours, no commute, fewer office distractions and more time with family?
Well, not quite everyone. Recent studies have found that telecommuters tend to be online more and work longer hours than their colleagues at the office. For some people, telework may actually do little to reduce exhaustion and stress — and could even prove to be more taxing.
For example, a study by Timothy D.Golden found that telework exacerbated feelings of mental and physical fatigue among employees of a large computer company who were already struggling with balancing job and personal responsibilities.
“When you have a lot of demands from both work and family and you put the workplace in the home, family demands become very salient and you’re reminded of the conflict,” said the study’s author Timothy Golden, who is an associate professor at the Lally School of Management & Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. “But when you’re at the office, you don’t see the chores and family members, so you’re a little removed from the conflict.”
Those who prefer a clear demarcation line between job and family may struggle to establish boundaries when both are in the same location.
Employers are understandably most concerned about monitoring at-home workers to ensure they get the job done. But managers also need to help employees set limits because telecommuters who don’t know when to stop working may be at risk of burning out and becoming less productive.
Telecommuters and their bosses should discuss their expectations about work schedules, hours of availability and response times, and then try to reach common ground.
“It can get really tricky if you know you work best after midnight when the house is quiet, but your company wants you available for the entire 9-to-5 work day,” said Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader at WorldatWork, a human resources association. “Such issues need to be part of the negotiations with your manager.”
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