An overview of telecommuting

The popularity of telecommuting has created a tremendous amount of interest amongst scholars and practitioners. The authors Allen, Golden, and Shockley shared their findings in a review of various telecommuting researchers and shared the scientific findings through discussing the effect telecommuting has in shaping our “interpersonal processes such as knowledge sharing and innovation.” They found that “telecommuting” does have various interpretations such as “telework, remote work, distributed work, virtual work, flexible work, flexplace, and distance work.” Additionally, they address “family responsibilities, effects on traffic and emissions, business continuity, work opportunities, and potential impact on societal ties.” They identified ongoing challenges which included the need to find a precise definition for telecommuting due to numerous disciplines producing differing information in order to unify the work mode.

The authors highlighted benefits of telecommuting which included not commuting, and the independence to work remotely. However, they also mentioned its drawbacks related to health, social isolation, lack of technology, and mentorship. Researchers have regarded legislation, policies, and the past telecommuting “practices and prevalence statistics.” Their examination featured the “types of telecommuting, challenges, employee work-family issues, attitudes, work outcomes and the consequences from community and societal effects.” The authors proposed the need for further research and application of the practices to enhance collected data to pinpoint future improvements.

The advancement of technology played a huge role in permitting employees to work remotely as it accommodated workers with disabilities, child-care, and transportation issues. Virtual workers with flexible work programs could still effectively meet their deliverables as well as the in office or face-to-face workers and allowed them to connect with employers, supervisors, and co-works regardless of their location. Telecommuting has been scrutinized for the effects it has on “supervisors, coworkers, family members, satisfaction, and performance” like career advancement and wages. However, virtual connectivity does bridge the gap of social and professional isolation, trust, and “knowledge sharing” with co-workers.

Overall, the implications of and recommendations for telecommuting is contingent on research, practice, and public policies. The success of telecommuting depends upon available technology and how disciplined and skilled the remote worker is. The authors concluded that there is a need for additional research and governance since there are numerous definitions for telecommuting. The telecommuting analysis of the current literature did reveal that, “work is no longer a place but what you do.” Further studies will help to find “if telecommuting is a sustainable practice or is more episodic in occurrence.” (Allen et al., 2015). 


How Effective Is Telecommuting? Assessing the Status of Our Scientific Findings, by Tammy D. Allen, Timothy D. Golden, and Kristen M. Shockley

Viewpoint Written by Anjanie R. Fairbairn, Texas State University

Edited by Mariah Clem, Texas State University

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