Are Telecommuters Slackers?
Does "working from home" mean "hardly working"? A new survey from CareerBuilder.com suggests it does, for nearly one in five telecommuters.
When the company asked 5,300 telecommuters about their work habits, 17 percent said they worked for one hour a day or less. But more than double that number, 35 percent, said they worked eight hours or more, up from 18 percent when CareerBuilder conducted this same survey in 2007. Forty percent said they work between four and seven hours per day.
Could it be that they're just superefficient? Not necessarily. Nearly 40 percent of workers believe they're more productive at the office, while 29 percent claim to get more done at home. About a third (34 percent) say they are equally productive wherever they are. The major distractions at home: chores (cited by 31 percent), television (26 percent), and pets (23 percent). Internet ranked fifth on the list (18 percent), just behind errands (19 percent), but ahead of children (15 percent).
The Telework Research Network, a consulting and research firm specializing in workplace flexibility strategies, said "something smells fishy about" the CareerBuilder report.
"Study after study has shown that overwork is one the biggest problems for teleworkers," wrote the company on its blog.
An iPass Mobile Workforce Report, also cited by the Society for Human Resources Management, found that 12 percent of the 3,100 employees it surveyed worked 20 more hours per week when they worked from home.
The San Diego-based Telework Research Network pointed to a Cisco study that found that telecommuters put in extra hours: Allowed to work from home, they give back 60 percent of the time they'd have spent travelling conducting business.
Susan Rogers, an AT&T senior manager, said AT&T internal surveys about its 15,000 telecommuters showed just the opposite of the CareerBuilder survey and that the company could back it up with concrete data from its time-reporting and other HR systems.
Telecommuters work the same and often longer hours when they work from home, Rogers wrote on LinkedIn, noting that "they also have higher engagement scores, lower absentee rates, lower turnover rates, and the same or higher annual performance ratings, when compared to our nontelecommuting population."
Meanwhile, a study released in August from the Ethisphere Institute and Jones Lang LaSalle found that employees who work from home are more honest; they commit fewer ethics violations than those who sit at the office.
How productive do you think your employees are when telecommuting?
Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.