The Home Workplace 1
Running Head: PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING OF TELEWORKERS
The Home as a Workplace: Work-Family Interaction and Psychological Well-Being in
Peter Standen Kevin Daniels David Lamond
Edith Cowan University Sheffield University Macquarie University
Perth, Australia Sheffield, United Kingdom Sydney, Australia
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Peter Standen, School of
Management, Edith Cowan University, Pearson St, Churchlands, WA 6018, Australia.
Electronic mail may be sent to email@example.com.
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Home-based telework is a growing phenomenon with great potential to affect
employees’ psychological well-being. While prior studies show both positive and
negative effects on work-family interaction, conclusions are limited by the way
telework, well-being and work-family interaction have been modelled. We present a
conceptual framework in which telework is seen as a multidimensional phenomenon,
and the effects of the home environment are separated from those due to distance from
the organization. Warr’s (1987) model of the nine environmental antecedents of well-
being is used to develop specific propositions concerning the effects of work-family
interaction, based on telework studies and the work-family literature. Spillover between
work and non-work domains of well-being is predicted to occur through a variety of
processes. While important effects of autonomy, social contact, social value and goal
orientation are identified, we conclude that the picture is complex and requires
systematic empirical research.
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The Home as a Workplace: Work-Family Interaction and Psychological Well-Being in
The practice of employees working at home is of growing interest to organizations
and workers as computing and communications advances reduce the need for travel to
centralized work sites. Although estimates vary according to the definitions used, surveys
suggest that between 10% and 30% of large organizations in the US, Canada, northern
Europe, and Australia use home-based telework, and managers predict greater use in the
future (Huws, 1994; Brewster, Hegewisch, & Mayne, 1994; Cowans, 1994; Solomon &
Templar, 1993; Standen, 1997). A major reason for this interest is the growing demand for
work arrangements that mix more flexibly with family care (Zedeck & Mosier, 1990),
although organizations are also attracted by cost reduction, recruitment and work
organization benefits (Korte & Wynne, 1996).
By bringing work and family life closer together home-based telework raises many
questions about workers’ psychological well-being. On one hand, working closer to family
life avoids the difficulty of managing child or elder care from a distance, and may free family
care from the rigid time schedules of a central office (Olson, 1987; Bailyn, 1989; Crossan &
Burton, 1993). Studies of conventional workers show that flexible work schedules can
increase well-being (e.g., Staines & Pleck, 1983), and telework offers greater control over
work scheduling than more common options like part-time or flexi-time work. On the other
hand proximity also clearly invites work-family conflict, as empirical studies have shown
(e.g., Olson & Primps, 1984; Leidner, 1988; Gurstein, 1991). Studies of conventional
workers associate conflict with greater incidence of mental and physical pathologies,
including anxiety, depression, raised blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
(Parasuraman, Greenhaus, & Granrose, 1992; MacEwen & Barling, 1994; Thomas &
Ganster, 1995; Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1997).
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Although there are no rigorous studies of teleworkers’ well-being, early theoretical and
descriptive studies emphasized the adverse effects of work-family interaction (Salomon &
Salomon, 1984; Shamir & Salomon, 1985; Kraut, 1987; Christensen, 1988). In today’s work
environment telework may be more attractive, as employees are given greater responsibility
for self-motivation and self-management (Lewis & Cooper, 1995). However, accompanying
expectations of greater performance and accountability increase work pressure (Lewis &
Cooper, 1995) and the possibility that this pressure may affect family life. For these reasons
systematic research on employee well-being is urgently needed.
Prior studies of telework offer much insight into the effects on well-being, but
conceptual inadequacies hamper their integration and the design of future research. This
paper develops a theoretical framework that addresses these problems. We begin by
clarifying the term ‘telework’, and argue that researchers should analyze separately the
effects of distance from the organization and those of the home environment. Next,
limitations in the concepts and variables used in prior research, particularly the outcome
measures, are raised. We then suggest that Warr’s (1987) account of the environmental
predictors of well-being provides a useful basis for studying well-being in telework. The final
section develops propositions concerning the effects of work-family interaction on well-being
using Warr’s model, telework research, and principles from the work-family literature.
The Concept of Home-Based Telework
‘Telework’ and ‘telecommuting’ are generic terms that encompass a range of remote
work locations including the home, telecentres, and the field (Lamond, Standen, & Daniels,
1998). While they lack an agreed definition, most uses imply distance from the organization
and work that primarily or to a large extent uses information and communications equipment
(Korte & Wynne, 1996). Here, telework also indicates a continuing arrangement to work
away from the organization for at least part of the week rather than episodic occurrences.
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Currently the majority of teleworkers work at home for two to four days per week, and
otherwise in the office (Gray, Hodson, & Gordon, 1993; Huws, 1994; Standen, 1997).
Home-based telework should be distinguished from other forms of work at home.
While researchers have included self-employed workers with employees (Owen, Carsky, &
Dolan, 1992; Christensen, 1988; Olson, 1989), having an external employer may introduce
extra constraints on working hours, flow and quality of work, and even behavior in the home.
The two groups may also have different types of work and family circumstances. A series of
American studies found employees had different occupations (Masuo, Fury, & Walker,
1992), made more contribution to family income, had one rather than two jobs (Loker &
Scannell, 1992), had family present more often (Rowe & Bentley, 1991), and experienced
less variation in work flow (Heck, Saltford, Rowe, & Owen, 1992). It is therefore preferable
to study employees separately.
Home-based telework should also be distinguished from other forms of telework.
Whilst all involve a separation between worker and organization, home-based teleworkers
face particular issues arising from the physical and social context of the home. In
extrapolating the work-family literature to home-based telework it is important to remember
that being away from the office has one set of consequences while proximity to family life
has another. All forms of telework can affect work-related well-being through outcomes such
as reduced interaction with colleagues, but introducing work into the family home has certain
unique consequences for both work and family-related well-being. Although previous
telework studies have not made this distinction, separating the two types of change improves
Finally, telework should be seen as a multidimensional phenomenon rather than just
absence from the office. Lamond, Standen, & Daniels (1998) identify five relevant variables:
the degree to which information and communication technologies connect workers to the
The Home Workplace 6
office; the distribution of time between the office and the home; the extent to which the job
requires communication with other employees; the amount of communication with clients or
other external parties; and knowledge intensity, indicating amongst other things the different
levels of autonomy experienced by professional and routine teleworkers. Together these
variables primarily influence integration with the organizational environment, giving some
forms of telework greater impact on work-related well-being than others. While the effects of
remoteness have peripheral interest here some consequences for work-family interaction are
noted in later sections. In addition, time at home clearly affects work-family interaction and
so moderates all our propositions. Telework should not be treated as an all-or-none variable.
Working at home has long been common in craftwork, manufacturing and clerical
occupations (Borris & Daniels, 1989), although earlier studies often examined ‘outworkers’
with casual status and piecework wages. Recent technological advances enable telework
amongst a wide range of professional and clerical employees in standard employment
relationships, and research on these may be categorized into four areas. Positive effects on
work-family relationships include evidence that workers without primary care responsibilities
experience greater integration of the two spheres (Olson, 1987; Ahrentzen, 1990; Dubrin,
1991), improved family relations (Olson, 1987), and high levels of family-related life
satisfaction (Ahrentzen, 1990; Rowe & Bentley, 1992). While Ahrentzen (1989) found
mental overlap of work and family roles was not increased at home, other studies show
increased work-family conflict and stress (Bailyn, 1988), particularly for women with care
roles (Olson & Primps, 1984; Christensen, 1988; Gurstein, 1991) and single parents (Rowe &
A second set of findings show quality of life benefits in areas besides family care,
through flexible work hours (Olson, 1987; Bailyn, 1989), better access to leisure (Olson &
The Home Workplace 7
Primps, 1984; Olson, 1988; Bailyn, 1988), lower work-related costs (Manning, 1985), and
greater access to employment (Bailyn, 1988). However, other studies find no impact on life
satisfaction (Olson, 1989; Quaid & Lagerberg, 1992), and one reports lowered life
satisfaction (Bailyn, 1989).
Potential advantages to psychological functioning at work are suggested by evidence of
greater job satisfaction (Olson, 1987; Bailyn, 1988; Dubrin, 1991; Quaid & Lagerberg, 1992),
higher organizational commitment (Olson, 1987) and reduced turnover (Bailyn, 1988; Frolick
et al., 1993). However, Kraut (1987) found no impact on job satisfaction and autonomy,
while Olson (1989) found increased autonomy but lowered satisfaction and organizational
commitment, and greater work-related role conflict.
Finally, home-based telework is often said to improve performance at work, with
reports of greater productivity (Olson, 1987; Bailyn, 1988; Dubrin, 1991; Hartman, Stoner &
Arora, 1991; Quaid & Lagerberg, 1992; Frolick, Wilkes, & Urwiler, 1993), better
concentration and work quality (Manning, 1985; Olson, 1987; Bailyn, 1988; Frolick et al.,
1993), and reduced absenteeism (Frolick et al., 1993). Other studies find no change in
productivity (Olson, 1989) or lower productivity for certain employees (Ramsower, 1985).
In summary, the literature reports both positive and negative effects. As well as directly
affecting family relationships and quality of life, changes in psychological functioning and
performance in work at home can be expected to spillover to family life in ways we discuss
later. However, drawing conclusions from these diverse findings is made difficult by
shortcomings in the way researchers have conceptualized telework, well-being and their
relationship. First telework is often not clearly defined in relation to the critical variables
noted earlier: employment status, information technology use, time spent in the office, degree
of contact required by the job, and knowledge intensity. Thus, employees may be included
with the self-employed (Christensen, 1988; Olson, 1989; Dubrin, 1991), and home-based
The Home Workplace 8
workers may have different conditions, benefits or part-time/full-time status to office worker
controls (e.g., Dubrin, 1991). The time worked at home can vary from one to four days a
week (e.g., Frolick et al., 1993). Some samples have very specific types of professional work,
often in computer programming (Crossan & Burton, 1993; Bailyn, 1988; Olson, 1989;
Frolick et al., 1993), others analyze professional and clerical workers together (Ramsower,
1985; Hartman, Stoner, & Aurora, 1991; Gurstein, 1991). Such variations may partly explain
the diversity of outcomes.
A second problem is the lack of a comprehensive model of psychological well-being
applicable to work and non-work domains. Existing models use ‘quality of life’ variables that
tend to focus on one or other domain and may include non-psychological factors. Shamir and
Salomon (1985) present many propositions concerning the impacts on quality of working life,
construed in psychological terms, but place less emphasis on the family context. Carsky,
Dolan, and Free (1991) model women home-workers’ quality of family life as an interaction
between worker and family characteristics, the nature of the work, and the work-at-home
environment. Owen et al. (1992) draw on the family economics literature to model quality of
life as an interaction between home-based work and three other activities: ‘away’ (office)
work; unpaid domestic labor; and ‘propinquous production’, which includes nurturing, social,
and spiritual activities. Quality of life in the latter studies involves either objective economic
circumstances (Owen et al., 1992) or socio-political considerations (Carsky et al., 1991) as
well as, or instead of, satisfaction, making the link to psychological well-being unclear.
A third problem is that the telework literature has not incorporated research on work-
family processes in conventional work. While role conflict is acknowledged (e.g., Ahrentzen,
1990; Gurstein, 1991), other types of conflict (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985) and other forms
of ‘spillover’ (Lambert, 1990) are relevant to teleworker well-being. We examine these
processes in detail after first outlining an appropriate model of well-being.
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The Environmental Determinants of Psychological Well-being
Telework research can be advanced by incorporating Warr’ (1987) account of nine
environmental features considered to predict psychological well-being. Considerable
evidence associates most of these features with such aspects of psychological well-being as
experience of positive affects, infrequent experience of negative affects, and experience of
integration, competence and control over life (Warr, 1987, 1994). In explaining how home or
work environments affect well-being the nine features provide more specific predictions than
the global quality of life measures used in previous telework studies. Further, well-being is
considered specific to the work or non-work context (Warr, 1987; Frone et al., 1997), and
Warr's model is based on studies of healthy psychosocial environments in both contexts,
making it well suited to situations where they are strongly inter-related. The nine features are
expected to have within-domain effects on well-being, as well as cross-domain effects
through spillover processes discussed below.
Warr’s variables are:
(1) Opportunity for control – autonomy over activities and events, participation in
(2) Opportunity for skill use – opportunity to use or extend skills.
(3) Externally generated goals – moderate levels of demand; consistency of demands
and task identity; time demands; role conflict; responsibility; concentration and
(4) Variety – in task content and location, skill use, roles and responsibilities.
(5) Environmental clarity – ability to understand and predict the environment. Clarity
about results of behavior, required behavior, and the future.
(6) Availability of money – variations at the lower levels are hypothesized to impact
The Home Workplace 10
(7) Physical security – good working or home conditions, absence of danger.
(8) Opportunity for interpersonal contact – neither too much nor too little contact;
quality of interactions, relationships, social support and instrumental support; good
(9) Valued social position – (a) wider cultural evaluations of occupational prestige and
social rank; (b) the social environment of the home or work; (c) personal evaluations of task
significance, meaning of tasks, self-respect from tasks (Warr, 1987, 1994).
In general, we expect greater psychological well-being where there is more opportunity
for control, variety, skill use, environmental clarity, better physical conditions, more
availability of money, more social value and fewer externally-generated demands1. Whilst
Warr’s model provides a useful and parsimonious basis for studies of home-based telework
we note that some aspects of it are yet to be clarified, including the relative weighting of each
feature, and in some cases its optimal level (Warr, 1987, 1994); the exact form of the
relationship between each environmental feature and well-being and the possibilities for their
interaction (Warr, 1990); and the moderating role of individual differences, preferences and
coping strategies (e.g., Cooper & Payne, 1991).
Work-Family Interaction in Home-Based Telework
A general model of how home-based telework influences well-being is shown in
Figure 1. In summary, the work-family boundary is expected to be reduced compared to
conventional work, affecting both work-related and non-work correlates of well-being.
Interaction between the two forms of well-being is inferred from both Warr’s model and
studies of work-family interaction in conventional workers (e.g., Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985;
Lambert, 1990), and we examine specific spillover processes below. Work-family interaction
is moderated the individual’s goal orientation, personal autonomy and boundary-setting skill.
INSERT FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE
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While the focus below is on work-family interaction, Figure 1 shows that a full
account of well-being will also include changes in the nature of work as described by the five
dimensions of telework: information technology use, internal and external contact, time spent
in the office, and knowledge intensity. There is evidence that telework affects work-context
variables such as privacy, physical security, pay, work variety, concentration, management of
work demands, skill use, social contact and social status (Shamir & Salomon, 1985; Olson,
1987; Bailyn, 1988; Olson, 1989). These variables are related to well-being by Warr, and in
most cases associated moods are known to spillover into family life (Greenhaus & Beutell,
1985). An example of these effects is that greater well-being is expected for professional
teleworkers with moderate levels of office contact (Manning, 1985; Olson, 1987; Bailyn,
1988; Olson, 1989; Huws et al., 1990; Frolick et al., 1993), while workers in occupations
with little control over work or little contact may experience reduced well-being. Another
example is that the home workplace might be subject to greater health and safety problems
including cramped office space, noise, insufficient work breaks or poor ergonomics (Crossan
& Burton, 1992). Teleworkers also sometimes have lower pay than conventional workers in
similar jobs (Olson, 1987; Leidner, 1988; Dubrin 1991), which may reduce well-being
according to Warr’s model. A final aspect is the loss of status through being invisible to
organizational members (Olson & Primps, 1984; Bailyn, 1989; Gurstein, 1991). There is not
room here to fully examine how distance from the organization affects work-related well-
being (see Shamir & Salomon, 1985).
Spillover in Home-Based Telework
Studies of conventional workers provide much evidence of ‘spillover’ from work to
family life (e.g., Staines, 1980) and family to working life (e.g., Piotrkowski, 1979). In a
review of this literature, Lambert (1990) identified four criteria for studies of spillover that
are relevant here. First, she suggests researchers look beyond issues of the directionality and
The Home Workplace 12
extent of spillover to the specific work and family characteristics that affect well-being across
the two domains. Warr’s nine variables provide a vehicle for this, while also meeting
Lambert’s second recommendation that outcome measures be domain-specific, as work-
family studies increasingly acknowledge (e.g., MacEwen & Barling, 1994; Frone et al.,
1997). Third, Lambert suggests that general measures will ultimately be needed to determine
the costs and benefits of different forms of work-family balance, and that such measures
should be as diverse as possible - Warr’s model meets both criteria. Finally, the discussion
below follows Lambert’s recommendation that both objective and subjective forms of
influence be studied. While subjective phenomena such as mood spillover are more
commonly cited, objective aspects of work, including pay, physical conditions and the work
itself, may affect home life while objective characteristics of the home, such as its physical
layout and social composition, may affect work (Rice, Near, & Hunt, 1979).
A useful concept for examining such influences is the work-family boundary
(Eckenrode & Gore, 1990), derived from a view of work and family as separate systems
(Pleck, 1977). The boundary can be seen as a structural phenomenon imposed by the spatial
and temporal separation between work and family life. It also has a social dimension
inasmuch as work and home roles are separated in post-industrial society (Wilenksy, 1960).
Finally, it is a psychological phenomenon: for example Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek, and
Rosenthal (1964) suggest that workers actively attempt to mentally disengage the two
activities. The spatial, temporal, social and psychological aspects of the boundary are each
changed when work is moved into the home (Ahrentzen, 1990).
However, even in normal work arrangements it appears that a diverse range of
phenomena cross this boundary. While spillover is most often studied in relation to negative
emotions (e.g., Williams & Alliger, 1994; Repetti, 1989), in a wider sense it also refers to
positive emotions and to attitudes, skills, and behaviors (Lambert, 1990), to general types of
The Home Workplace 13
activities (Staines, 1980), or to beliefs, authority relations, values, philosophies and personal
energy crossing the boundary (Hoffman, 1989). At present, there is less empirical evidence
on the latter forms of spillover than on emotions.
How then does moving work to home affect the work-family boundary? One possibility
involves greater interaction in the areas that affect conventional work-family relations. An
increase in work-family conflict is one possibility: work and home life clearly have greater
scope for interaction when role behaviors are closer in space and time. This is not just a
matter of logic: studies of commuting show how individuals use the time to switch between
roles (Salomon & Salomon, 1984; Ahrentzen, 1990). Without this buffer, both roles may be
simultaneously present to a greater extent. Psychological disengagement during work is also
harder – it may be more difficult to block out thoughts or emotions from home life
(Ahrentzen, 1990), for example. Conceptually, these effects represent a ‘thinning’ of the
A second broad type of change is that new forms of interaction arise, since the nature of
the boundary is set by the characteristics of its environment. For example, aspects of the
office environment that serve to focus attention on work and exclude non-work influences are
absent, including norms about time of attendance, breaks, non-work phone calls, family
visits, clothing, speech, office furniture and decorations (Olson, 1988). Equally, the home is
primarily arranged for non-work activities, giving the boundary a different spatial character
(e.g., different types of interruptions) and a new temporal pattern (e.g., work and childcare
may be interleaved across the day). It also involves a different sort of social contract (e.g.,
gender roles may be different at home), and new sorts of psychological influences (e.g., the
special identity of the home as a refuge). The importance of changes in boundary quality can
be seen by noting that if family moved into a work environment, as may happen in a military
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base or a university college, the boundary may be thinner but would remain strongly set by
the work environment.
Thus, interaction between family and work at home may be greater, but will also cover
a broader range of areas than in studies of conventional workers. Unfortunately for our
purposes, research on how non-emotional spillover effects well-being in conventional work-
family life is relatively limited. A second problem is that the processes by which
conventional workers maintain the boundary have received relatively little study (Lambert,
1990), reducing our ability to predict what strategies teleworkers might use in response to the
thinner boundary. Only one telework study has examined boundary-building strategies
(Ahrentzen, 1990), and the impacts on well-being are not clear. In these ways knowledge of
the work-family boundary limits general predictions concerning home-based telework.
We turn now to specific forms of interaction identified in work-family studies. Perhaps
the most frequently discussed is work-family conflict, often conceptualized as the outcome of
mutually-incompatible pressures arising from the different roles of worker and parent or
partner (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). Studies of conventional workers have long identified
conflict as a significant problem for both men and women (Hall, 1972; Pleck, 1977). Role
pressures are thought to create moods (Williams & Alliger, 1994) or states of psychological
distress (Frone, Russell, & Cooper, 1992a) that spill over, affecting psychological well-being
in both work and family contexts (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Voydanoff, 1987;
Parasuraman et al., 1992; Frone et al., 1997).
Greater conflict in work at home has been predicted on theoretical grounds (Shamir &
Salomon, 1985). Although there have been no attempts to measure conflict using the domain-
specific measures found in the work-family literature, nor to assess its impact on such aspects
of well-being as anxiety or depression, telework research does suggest some mechanisms for
The Home Workplace 15
increased role conflict. First, work and family life are both clearly more susceptible to
intrusions when conducted in the same location (Ahrentzen, 1990). Second, even if family are
not present during work hours, work is frequently scheduled around care requirements
(Ahrentzen, 1990; Leidner, 1988), creating objective pressures and psychological tensions
(Shamir & Salomon, 1985). Objective constraints involve a commitment to scheduling work
around the timetables of schools, care facilities, shops or medical facilities. Equally, time
parameters set by colleagues or clients at work may restrict family life, although family
demands may be less predictable than work demands and exacerbate tension from that
source (Carsky et al., 1991). Such time-based strains are known to affect well-being when
conventional workers juggle roles (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). Psychological constraints
might include cognitive and emotional disengagement. A worker may worry about a child at
school simply because the work environment contains reminders of non-work roles and,
conversely, unfinished work may have a visible presence during non-work activities.
Cognitive or emotional disengagement might also increase where work and family roles are
interleaved across the day.
Another psychological consequence of role overlap common in work-family studies is
strain-based conflict, where stressors in one domain create negative moods that spill over. We
have previously noted that telework might create new work-domain stressors or relieve old
ones, and telework may affect the family system in ways discussed later. Both sorts of
stressors are likely to produce states such as tension, anxiety, fatigue, and depression that
cross the boundary, as studies of conventional work show (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985,
Greenhaus & Parasuraman, 1986; Voydanoff, 1987, Burke, 1988).
A final psychological consequence of role overlap is behavior-based conflict
(Greenhaus and Beutell, 1985), which involves the different behavioral styles operating in
work and family life. At work, the male managerial style requires self-reliance, stability,
The Home Workplace 16
aggressiveness and objectivity (Schein, 1973), characteristics not always valued at home.
Similarly, authority relations at home and work are different (Hoffman, 1989). Again, the
greater proximity of work and family life in telework might increase conflict between their
value systems. On the other hand, distance from the organization might reduce the need for
traditional work behavioral styles and therefore reduce conflict.
While telework studies are yet to directly assess behavior-based spillover, negative
effects from other forms of role overlap have been reported (Olson & Primps, 1984; Leidner,
1988; Gurstein, 1991). A general increase in objective and subjective role overlap is
predicted to adversely affect three of Warr’s environmental variables.
P1: Conflict between work and family demands will decrease opportunity for control,
reduce ability to meet externally generated goals, and create unwanted interpersonal contact,
affecting well-being in both work and non-work domains.
On the other hand, one important feature of home-based telework acts to reduce time-
based role conflict. Teleworkers are often allowed to schedule work independently of office
regimes, and reports suggest this is a major source of work and life satisfaction (Olson &
Primps, 1984; Olson, 1987; Bailyn, 1989). Our earlier prediction of greater time-based strain
does not necessarily contradict this view: greater flexibility might reduce existing strains but
also create new ones.
P2: Temporal flexibility of work scheduling will increase well-being in both domains
by increasing ability to meet externally generated goals.
The prevalence of role-conflict in studies of both teleworkers and conventional workers
should not blind researchers to spillover of positive affects. Despite evidence of positive
spillover (Piotrkowski, 1979), it has been said that the work-family literature is dominated by
a model of competition rather than positive influence (Gallos, 1989; Lambert, 1990). In one
The Home Workplace 17
of the few tests of positive spillover Williams and Alliger (1994) found that spillover
assessed in daily reports was strong for negative moods but weak for positive moods.
Whether the thinner boundary in home-based telework allows greater spillover of
satisfactions compared to conventional work is unknown, though worthy of research.
One potential source of positive spillover is family support for workers, known to
increase health and well-being in office workers (Beehr & McGrath, 1992). Work at home
may offer greater opportunity for both practical and emotional supports, at least where it does
not disrupt household activities. However, there is little evidence concerning the extent of
family support, and many studies show that where women have the dual roles of earning
income and family care, family are less a source of support than demands (e.g., Olson &
Primps, 1984; Christensen, 1988; Rowe & Bentley, 1992). In one contrary finding, Beach
(1989) found the spouses and children of women shoe manufacturers provided considerable
practical supports for the work. Possibly, in other occupations family members may help by
answering the phone, filing, or making lunches, as reported in studies of family business
(e.g., Kanter, 1977). Emotional supports from family members or feelings of emotional
closeness to family have been reported for male home-based teleworkers (Olson & Primps,
1984). Where they exist, practical and emotional supports from family would enhance well-
being by decreasing the impact of externally generated goals on work, increasing control over
work and improving self-worth, part of Warr’s social value variable.
P3: Emotional or practical family supports will increase work-related well-being by
enhancing opportunity for control, ability to meet externally generated goals, and social
Other forms of interaction
Three other aspects of spillover are noteworthy. First, it does not necessarily operate
only in one direction. There is evidence that a ‘vicious circle’ can be formed when, for
The Home Workplace 18
example, work affects the worker’s family roles, which in turn affects performance at work
(Greenhaus & Parasuraman, 1994; Frone et al., 1992a). Carsky et al. (1991) predict this type
of reciprocal spillover for home-based telework, and the family-work-family variant can also
be expected. The overall consequences for well-being might be quite serious.
Second, discussions of spillover have contrasted it with the phenomenon of
compensation (see Lambert, 1990), whereby people invest extra effort in one sphere to
compensate for lack of satisfaction in the other (Champoux, 1978). The converse process,
where high involvement in one sphere causes lowered involvement in the other, has been
called accommodation (Lambert, 1990). The general potential for these changes in effort is
hard to predict. Home-based telework itself may be a form of compensation if motivated by
dissatisfaction with the office or a need to invest extra effort in home life. In other cases, the
greater proximity of the two environments might reduce the possibility of compensation or
accommodation, significantly decreasing well-being.
A third outcome involves change in the symmetry of the boundary. According to Pleck
(1977), women find home life interferes with work more than work interferes with home life,
while men find that work is more solidly bounded than home life. Recent evidence on
asymmetry is mixed. MacEwen & Barling (1994) find the strain associated with family
interference follows Pleck’s hypothesis, while others find that no evidence of gender
differences but find the home side of the boundary weaker than the work side (Frone, Russell,
& Cooper, 1992b; Gutek, Searle, & Klepa, 1991; Swanson, Power & Simpson, 1998). The
latter result might indicate stricter cultural and regulatory controls over the intrusion of non-
work into work sites, with the family home more open to normative pressures from outside. If
so, the work side of the boundary may be reduced in home-based telework. On the other
hand, rules about family behavior have been found to increase (Ahrentzen, 1990), so the
home side may become stronger and the overall effect is less predictable.
The Home Workplace 19
Effects on the family system
Beyond its effect on the worker, home-based telework can influence the wider family
system and hence the worker’s well-being. Research on the effect of conventional work
shows a wide range of influences (Hoffman, 1989), although these are little studied in the
telework research. Some evidence suggests home-based teleworkers overly monitor and
control children (Becker, 1986; Leidner, 1988), which may increase family tension.
Disruption to the role of parent or spouse is also experienced (Hartman et al., 1993).
Ahrentzen (1990) reports a change in family roles in 70% of the households she studied,
affecting household members other than the teleworker in 40% of cases. The disruptions
included limits on times family could speak to workers and dictation of household use, such
as meal and television viewing times. Such changes in family behavior are expected to reduce
the worker’s social value and satisfaction with interpersonal contacts.
P4: Well-being will be reduced as the impact on family reduces the worker’s valued
social position and quality of interpersonal contact in the non-work domain.
There is limited evidence of positive impacts on the family system. Beach (1989) found
that women home-based workers’ families valued the presence of work in the household.
While these families held an ideology that favored close integration of work and family life,
home-based work might also be valued where it brings economic advantages over
unemployment. Another benefit is to provide family members with interests and activities
through what Kanter (1977) describes as the ‘absorptiveness’ of work at home, a general
propensity to draw in the activities and loyalties of household members. However, the
possibilities for improving family life are most likely to apply to work with less skill
requirement: intellectual tasks that require maximum concentration will not add greatly to
family life. Family values and work absorptiveness are expected to raise the worker’s social
value and improve the quality of interpersonal contact.
The Home Workplace 20
P5: Where work at home is valued by the family, or where routine work is absorptive,
enhanced non-work well-being will result from improvements to valued social position and
opportunity for interpersonal contact.
Reduction in role variety
Having multiple roles in life confers benefits to one’s status and self-esteem (Gove,
1972; Sieber, 1974), and employment clearly improves well-being compared to
unemployment (Warr, 1987). In telework role variety is potentially reduced in several ways.
One is that that work may offer less of an alternative to family life (Shamir & Salomon
1985). In particular, social relations at work contribute to well-being (Locke, 1976; Warr,
1987), and while other aspects of telework might aid role diversity, loss of the social
environment of the office can lead to isolation (Shamir & Salomon 1985) and reduce self-
esteem. Equally, the family environment may become less distinctive (Bailyn, 1988), creating
a sense of being ‘imprisoned’ at home (Ahrentzen, 1990) or, as one worker puts it, being “an
‘office-liver’ rather than a homeworker” (Gurstein, 1991, p. 174). Home forms a refuge from
the wider world (Ahrentzen, 1990; Gurstein, 1991), where family relations and attachment to
the physical context of these relations contribute to one’s identity, security and nurturance
(Proshansky, Fabian, & Kaminoff, 1983; Giuliani, 1991). Poor psychological functioning of
the home in these terms has been linked to physical health problems as well as stress,
depression and other mental pathologies (Tognoli, 1987). Self-identity and self-esteem are
aspects of Warr’s valued social position variable.
P6: Loss of social contact and social value from work will reduce work-related and
P7: Diminution of the home’s identity-enhancing role will affect non-work well-being
through a loss of social value.
The Home Workplace 21
As well as reducing the ability of work and family life to nurture self-identity, work at
home may produce role ambiguity through both boundary thinning and loss of the physical
and social cues that demarcate work roles in other locations (Gurstein, 1991; Ahrentzen,
1990). Role ambiguity is known to reduce well-being in conventional workers (Kahn et al.,
1964; Warr, 1987). In telework the lack of role demarcation may allow the more attractive or
pressing activity to dominate life. Overwork in particular is often reported (Olson, 1987;
Gurstein, 1991; Frolick et al., 1993), usually in knowledge-intense occupations where work is
stimulating and workers are self-motivated. Role ambiguity affects Warr’s environmental
clarity variable, while all the issues in this section additionally affect his variety variable.
P8: Role ambiguity may reduce environmental clarity and hence both work-related and
P9: Reduced variety across work and non-work contexts will reduce well-being in each
Goal orientation indicates the relative importance of work and non-work goals. The
work-family literature has been criticized for viewing work as an activity and ignoring
variations in its meaning (Zedeck & Mosier, 1990). Meaning is especially important here as
home-based telework is often motivated by goals outside the traditional work ethic, such as
family care or leisure (Olson & Primps, 1984; Bailyn, 1989; Olson, 1989; Gurstein, 1991),
and factors affecting well-being in office workers may be less salient to teleworkers.
However the simple opposition of work and family exemplified in concepts such as role
salience (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985) or role involvement (Lobel, 1991) may not adequately
explain home-based teleworkers’ motivations. First, while work is generally valued because
it provides social contact or value (Locke, 1976), teleworkers may be retreating from the
negative aspects of office social environments, including alienation, harassment, conformity
The Home Workplace 22
and lack of privacy (Huws et al., 1990; Gurstein, 1991; Crossan & Burton, 1993). Second,
work tasks themselves are a source of psychological satisfaction (Dubin, 1956). In a study
comparing teleworkers and office workers in similar jobs, Bailyn (1989) found teleworkers
more likely to seek intrinsic satisfaction, characterized by an emphasis on interesting and
significant work, skill development and flexibility, and a lack of concern with income and
success. Conversely, office workers were more concerned with pay, promotion, and status,
and less with flexibility, family, or personal skills. A third motivation may be that workers
experience conflict with leisure, recreation or personal development goals (cf. Kabanoff,
1980), and home-based telework can improve access to these activities.
Thus, home-based teleworkers’ goals may differ from those of other workers,
moderating the propositions above in complex ways. For example, a person with a family
orientation might tolerate interruptions to work from children where someone seeking
intrinsic work satisfaction would find those interruptions stressful. A general prediction is
that goal orientation shifts the salience of environmental variables between work and non-
work spheres: what conventional employees seek from work may be obtained elsewhere by
home-based teleworkers, and vice versa. This applies principally to control, skill use, variety,
externally generated goals, interpersonal contact and valued social position (cf. Mirchandani,
1988), since losses in environmental clarity, money and physical conditions are less easily
addressed in the other domain. Such predictions do not necessarily involve the compensation
hypothesis noted earlier, but rather stem from the different meanings attached to work.
Telework may sometimes have compensatory goals, but there is no suggestion that this is
P9: Goal orientation moderates the impact of home and family variables on well-being
in both domains by the shifting the salience of control, skill use, variety, externally generated
goals, interpersonal contact and valued social position between spheres.
The Home Workplace 23
Personal autonomy here refers to opportunity for control within the family
environment. Low levels of control in the context of high role demands are associated with
stress in the work-family literature (e.g., Baruch, Biener, & Barnett, 1987). Home-based
telework research shows that women have less personal autonomy than men where they also
bear more responsibility for family life (Christensen, 1988; Beach, 1989; Gurstein, 1991).
This may mean less opportunity to create physical conditions beneficial to work, screen out
interruptions, schedule work according to preference, avoid role ambiguity, and to seek new
sources of variety, social contact and self-identity in or outside the home (Gurstein, 1991;
Ahrentzen, 1990). Personal autonomy will also reflect the market value of a worker’s skills,
which tends to be lower for women (Leidner, 1988).
P10: Personal autonomy will moderate the impact of home-based telework on
opportunity for control, ability to meet external goals, variety, environmental clarity, physical
security, and interpersonal contact, affecting well-being in both domains.
The final moderating variable is the ability to set boundaries between work and non-
work. Key skills include switching between roles (Shamir & Salomon, 1985; Kraut, 1987),
tolerating distraction (Carsky et al., 1991) and coping with fatigue and time pressure.
Ahrentzen (1990) found that home-based professional workers used a range of strategies to
create a physical, temporal and psychological transition between work and non-work roles,
and did not experience greater role overlap than in conventional work. Everyday activities
such as dressing, reading or exercise were often involved, though performed in a ritualistic
manner that helped the cognitive shift. Boundary-setting abilities will be related to work and
personal autonomy, and are expected to cause great variation in individuals’ susceptibility to
goal conflict and role ambiguity.
The Home Workplace 24
P11: Boundary-setting ability will moderate the impact of home and family variables
on opportunity for control, externally generated goals and environmental clarity, lowering
well-being in both domains.
Some writers have predicted that home-based telework will not become widespread, in
part because work and home life are largely incompatible in contemporary Western societies
(Salomon & Salomon, 1984; Kraut, 1987; Christensen, 1988). To date, however, research has
focused only on fragments of the connection between well-being and the home work
environment. Greater understanding requires a clear definition of telework, a broad model of
well-being applicable to both work and family contexts, and a systematic account of objective
and subjective spillover processes. Further, researchers should not simply test whether
spillover is greater at home, but need to examine the quality of the work-family boundary to
determine how the types of transfer reported in work-family studies change in telework. Our
framework should assist the design of such studies.
There are, however, ways in which this framework could be further developed. One is
by examining a wider range of work-family interactions, including the transfer of skills,
beliefs and values. How the wider family system affects the worker is also poorly
documented at present, as are the differences between single and dual-worker, or sole and
two-parent families. Empirical research is needed to determine how work-family and family-
work spillovers combine and the overall balance of positive and negative effects. Reciprocal
spillover further complicates the picture, and suggests that ultimately the conceptual
separation of work and family domains may be somewhat artificial. Finally, how workers
endeavor to maintain separation between spheres is also an important topic where there has
been little research apart from Ahrentzen’s (1989) insightful study.
The Home Workplace 25
While we have focussed here on work-family interaction, future research also needs to
examine other non-work factors that may influence this interaction. If teleworkers cannot
realize needs for social contact or valuation from work, and if work at home reduces the
ability to escape from domestic life or reduces the social value of domestic life, do leisure
activities or community-based socializing compensate? For example, access to leisure is
thought to be a reason males in particular choose telework (Olson, 1989), perhaps in
compensation for lack of work satisfaction. Work-family interaction exists in the context of
other non-work activities that might spillover (Kabanoff, 1980) and hence affect family or
work-related well-being, and these deserve greater attention.
Given the complexity of reactions to home-based telework and the limited empirical
base, it is currently inappropriate to confirm or refute general predictions about well-being.
While we may conclude that for workers with family flexibility comes at a cost, how the
many influences identified here balance out is far from clear. Despite this, some variables
should be given priority in future studies. The centrality of work-family conflict in studies of
both conventional work and telework suggests that autonomy and ability to meet the goals
generated in each environment will strongly influence well-being. However, it should not be
assumed that work-family conflict is inevitable. Many teleworkers choose the arrangement to
reduced work-family strain and report satisfaction with the outcome (Ramsower, 1985;
Olson, 1987; Leidner, 1988; Bailyn, 1989). Ahrentzen (1990) found that the teleworkers she
studied had no more role overlap than office workers. Despite significant disruptions to
family life, high levels of work and personal autonomy in this sample appear to allow access
to material, social and psychological resources that minimize conflict. They also help avoid
potential losses of variety, social contact, social value and environmental clarity. The role of
moderating variables and coping strategies deserves priority in future research.
The Home Workplace 26
Satisfaction with telework often exists in the face of low levels of job satisfaction
(Olson, 1987; Leidner, 1988; Hartman et al., 1992; Quaid & Lagerberg, 1992), reminding us
that teleworkers may have work goals that differ from conventional workers. Researchers
should check that scales measuring concepts like satisfaction and involvement do not make
unwarranted assumptions about values in work or home life. Beyond motivations to do with
family care, intrinsic interest in the work and avoiding negative aspects of corporate
environments will have greater relevance in home-based telework. Increases in work-family
conflict, or decreases in traditional job satisfaction measures from loss of social contact do
not, by themselves, imply that telework reduces overall well-being. Goal orientation is
therefore a third key variable for future research.
Finally, our framework has important implications for organizations. Selection
procedures, training, and counseling programs can improve the fit between teleworkers and
the home work environment. Human resource personnel and employee counselors need to be
aware that success may be affected by work orientation, autonomy in the home, and
boundary-setting skills as well as the issues raised by distance from the office. Managers
should be prepared to meet work-family issues more amongst home-based teleworkers, and
should recognize that widespread reports of improved performance will not apply in the long
run if well-being deteriorates through lack of support at home. Equally, they should
understand that flexibility in work demands, adequate autonomy and managerial support are
major contributors to teleworker well-being.
Home-based telework is likely to be increasingly attractive to employees seeking to
balance work and non-work goals, and to employers looking for more flexible and productive
forms of work organization. However, its effects on psychological well-being are complex
and potentially quite significant. There is an urgent need for rigorous research that can inform
practitioners how to manage these effects.
The Home Workplace 27
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1 It should be noted that in some circumstances extremely high levels of opportunity for
control, variety and skill use lead to fragmented work and poor well-being; extremely high
values of environmental clarity constrict opportunity for control; extremely high values of
social contact lead to unwanted interactions and interuptions; and extremely low values of
externally generated demands lead to boring work (cf. Warr, 1987).