Impact of telecommuting on organization productivity.

AuthorMamaghani, Farrokh

    Telecommuting has attracted a lot of attention over the past decade due its impact on individual workers, businesses, and society as a whole. With the escalation in the number of people telecommuting, the paradigm of commuting to work has changed. Telecommuting can be defined as the practice of working from remote location using the information and telecommunications technology (ICT). According to Hunton and James the terms telecommuting and telework can be used interchangeably. While the structure of telecommuting, or telework, varies across companies, most arrangements offer employees the option to perform their work responsibilities from various locations (Hunton and Norman, 2010). Although to some extent, telecommuting has been done in some form for many years, 2008 was the year when many believe the concept of telecommuting was redefined. Many factors were cited for this emergence of telecommuting; rising fuel costs, high speed internet access, the treat of terrorism on business continuity, and the increased desire to accommodate employees balance between work and family life.

    Several studies show data that offers a compelling case for employers to enable the ability to offer such flexible arrangements for employees. Advocates cite motivation for better performance and cultivating increased commitment to the organization. Opponents cite the lack of contact and being out of sight limits opportunities for promotion and organizational rewards (Forgacs, 2010). According to American Community Survey (ACS) conducted annually by the U.S. Consensus Bureau indicates that the telecommuter population grew 61% from 2005 to 2009 (see chart 1).

    This paper examines the nature of a telecommuting organization and examines and quantifies the impact that telecommuting has on organizational productivity.


    A survey conducted by CompTIA in 2008, which intended to understand the business benefits and challenges of telecommuting, confirmed that organizations that allow the flexibility of telecommuting benefit from increased productivity, lower operating costs, as well as recruiting and retention benefits (Levinson, 2008). The web based study received 212 respondents, mainly in the IT industry. Seventy-eight percent confirmed that their company allowed some level of telecommuting. Sixty-seven percent of respondents cited increased employee productivity as the main benefit of telecommuting. Much of the productivity was related to employee reinvestment of travel time into productive work time.

    The nature of a telecommuting organization is one of flexibility to its employees. The traditional confines of a 9-5 desk job no longer apply as business evolves towards an "on-demand" culture where work can be done at any time, in almost any place. For a member of a telecommuting organization, this presents options and personal choice of when, how, and where to perform job duties. Kanuka note in their research that "...both laboratory and field research indicate that choice has positive consequences across diverse circumstances, including the workplace (Kanuka, Jugdev, Heller, West, 2008). That is, individuals will be more intrinsically motivated to persist at a task to the extent that the activity involves their personal choice and/or provides opportunities to make choices. Further, the opportunity to make choices leads to an increased sense of personal control and enhanced motivation.

    Many research studies have identified factors that contribute to productivity of telecommuting in various organizations and countries (Aboeimaged, El Subbaugh, 2012). Figure 1 presents the factors that will have an impact on the perceived productivity of telecommuting.

    1.1.1. Organizational Commitment

    In general, organizational commitment reflects a psychological state that characterizes the employees' relationship with the organization, which has implications for their decision to continue or discontinue membership in the organization ( Meyer and Allen 1997). In examining organizational commitment as it applies to a virtual organization, three components of commitment are exposed; affective commitment, continuance commitment, and normative commitment. All three components paint a complete picture of an employee's commitment to a telecommuting organization.

    2.1.2. Affective Commitment

    The affective commitment refers to an employee's emotional attachment to the organization, as well as an individual's identification with-and involvement in the organization. It is the process by which the goals of an organization and those of the individual become more closely integrated or aligned. Subsequent studies find a positive and significant correlation between affective commitment and job satisfaction and suggest that management consider policies that increase job satisfaction to reduce turnover (Westover, Westover, Westover, 2010). This suggests that creating an environment in which the organization aligns with the shared goals of employees will possibly reduce turnover and increase job satisfaction. Telecommuting has a strong impact on affective commitment.

    2.1.1. Continuance Commitment

    Continuance commitment refers to a marginal level of commitment of employees to the organization. This commitment is built on the perceived opportunity costs of leaving...

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