SALT LAKE CITY, UT — Researchers from Brigham Young University have found that, on average, employees with telecommuting and flex-time schedules worked an additional 19 hours per week before feeling overwhelmed by the work-life balance.
The study looks at the behaviors of more than 24,000 IBM employees, finding out at what point do the number of hours worked lead employees to report trouble balancing their work lives and their personal lives.
For IBM employees with traditional office-based schedules, employees hit that mark at 38 hours worked per week; employees with flexible schedules and with the ability to work at home worked 57 hours per week on average before finding trouble balancing work and life.
In order for the added benefits -- and longer workweeks -- to be realized, employees need both the flexible schedules and the capability to telecommute, said E. Jeffrey Hill, the study's lead author and a professor at BYU's School of Family Life.
"Telecommuting is really only beneficial for reducing work-life conflict when it is accompanied by flextime," Hill said.
Hill himself was once a telecommuting IBM employee, beginning in 1990, well before IBM made a broader effort to expand workers' ability to telecommute. In the process, IBM saved millions on office real estate and operational costs, and likely received more than a normal workload from its employees.
As more options for telecommuting hit the market, companies are increasingly looking at remote workers as a way to save costs, reduce emissions and build a happier workforce.
Last year, Cisco reported that its telecommuting program boosted employee productivity while cutting costs and emissions, and a study published in 2008 found flextime and telecommuting to be the most popular workplace perks.
IBM is also notable for having something akin to a "no vacation policy" policy: According to a New York Times article from 2007, all IBM employees are entitled to three weeks' vacation, but it's on an honor policy. Provided workers clear their vacations with their bosses, then no one keeps track of actual hours of holidays taken.
As with flextime and telecommuting, this type of vacation policy tends to make employees work more likely to check emails and voicemails while vacationing.
The annual State of Green Business report looks at employee telecommuting, and has found that, while the trend was on the rise prior to the economic downturn, it dropped quickly and stayed flat as employees hoped being more visible to their bosses would keep them in their jobs; the number seems to be back on the rise as of 2009.
Photo CC-licensed by Flickr user DDFic.