Most employees who work remotely work longer hours than their office-based colleagues, according to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin.
The study, co-authored by Jennifer Glass, professor in the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Centre, showed that most of the 30 percent of respondents who work from home add five to seven hours to their working week compared with those who work exclusively at the office. They are also significantly less likely to work a standard 40-hour schedule and more likely to work overtime. In fact, most telecommuting hours occur after an employee has already put in 40 hours of work at the office.
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Using two nationally representative data sources — the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 panel and special supplements from the US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey — Glass and her colleague, Mary Noonan, associate professor of sociology at the University of Iowa, analysed trends in the use of telecommuting among employees and employers in the US workforce.
The results, published in the Monthly Labor Review journal, indicate that telecommuting causes work to seep into home life. According to the survey, a majority of tech-savvy workers claim that telecommuting technology has increased their overall work hours and that employees use technology, especially email, to perform work tasks even when sick or on vacation.
“Careful monitoring of this blurred boundary between work and home time and the erosion of ‘normal working hours’ in many professions can help us understand the expansion of work hours overall among salaried workers,” says Glass.
The researchers also found that parents with dependent children are no more likely to work from home than the population as a whole so the main motivation for remote working was not work life balance. According to the findings, employees with authority and status are more likely than others to have the option to work remotely because they have more control of their work schedules.
The authors conclude that telecommuting has not permeated the American workplace, and where it has become commonly used, it is not very helpful in reducing work-family conflicts. Instead, it appears to have allowed employers to impose longer work days, facilitating workers’ needs to add hours to the standard working week.