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Teleworkers Isolated -- And Liking It

Sunday, September 2, 2012
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A recent university study dispels the myth that teleworkers feel disconnected unless they receive frequent communication from their organizations.

In fact, the more organizations talk, email or instant-message their teleworkers, the more turned off those teleworkers are, the study -- Testing the Connectivity Paradox -- finds.

Thus, HR leaders should establish clear expectations of performance for teleworkers and then train managers to limit their communications to them as long as those expectations are being met.

Researchers examined the way various forms of communication -- phone calls, email, instant messaging and face-to-face conversations -- affected teleworkers' feelings of stress due to interruptions, and subsequent feelings of attachment to their organizations. Their study suggests people who telework have expectations related to the degree of flexibility and quiet that the remote arrangement is going to provide.

When teleworkers are in frequent contact with colleagues and experience a lot of interruptions, that's when attachment to their organization diminishes, the report finds.

These issues are increasingly critical to HR leaders as more and more employees telework.

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According to an analysis by The Conference Board of data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in its annual American Community Survey, more than 2 percent of full-time employees worked primarily from home in 2010, nearly double the rate of a decade ago.

Rebecca Ray, senior vice president of human capital at The Conference Board in New York, says HR leaders need to recognize that "good management is good management," and must adapt to varying situations depending on where employees are based.

"At the end of the day, people want to feel like they're given the tools and support they need to do their job, but that they're not held so tightly that they feel that they're not respected by managers ... ," says Ray.

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