ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

Please note that gray areas reflect artwork that has been intentionally removed. The substantive content of the ar-ticle appears as originally published.
Set Up Remote
Workers to Thrive
FALL 2009 VOL. 51 NO. 1
REPRINT NUMBER 51116
Jay Mulki, Fleura Bardhi, Felicia Lassk and
Jayne Nanavaty-Dahl
Please note that gray areas reflect artwork that has been
intentionally removed. The substantive content of the ar-
ticle appears as originally published.
FALL 2009 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 63
DURING THE LAST DECADE, virtual work — professionals working remotely from home, from
client locations or simply from the road — has become increasingly prevalent. Some Fortune 500 compa-
nies, including Procter & Gamble, IBM, Accenture and AT&T, have already partially or fully eliminated
traditional offices.1 As much as 10% of today’s work force telecommutes from home — more than triple
the level of 2000. In addition, as companies trim staff positions in areas such as information technology,
accounting and public relations, they are relying more heavily on freelance workers.2 Telecommuting and
remote work arrangements will accelerate in the coming decades in response to the ongoing globalization
of work, ever-increasing customer demands and the cost and time of commuting.
Virtual work arrangements appeal to both corporations and employees based on the economics
and the personal flexibility and autonomy they offer. Flexible work has enabled corporations to
THE LEADING
QUESTION
How can
managers
maximize the
chances that
their remote
employees
will succeed
and provide
benefits for
the company?
FINDINGS
Managers need
to help employees
prioritize their work
and find the right
work-life balance.
To reduce remote
workers’ feelings
of isolation,
managers should
promote face-to-
face interactions
with colleagues.
Managers should
be accessible and
look for ways to
provide visibility
for remote employ-
ees within the
organization.
As increasing numbers of employees work remotely, companies
need to find effective ways to manage internal communication
and social interaction, and also to provide these employees with
opportunities to become more visible.
BY JAY MULKI, FLEURA BARDHI, FELICIA LASSK AND JAYNE NANAVATY-DAHL
Set Up Remote
Workers to Thrive
MANAGING PEOPLE
Telecommuter
Brent Cranfield,
working from
his home in
Marietta, GA.
SLOANREVIEW.MIT.EDU
Telecommuter
Brent Cranfield,
working from
his home in
Marietta, GA.
64 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW FALL 20 09 SLOANREVIEW.MIT.EDU
hire and retain employees who value the ability to
respond to family demands and desire more con-
trol over the time, place and mode of their work.3
By reducing the number of full-time employees on
site, corporations are realizing higher productivity
and savings in real estate costs. International Busi-
ness Machines Corp., for example, saves $100
million a year by allowing 42% of its employees to
work remotely.4 However, virtual employees and
managers alike are becoming increasingly aware of
the challenges associated with virtual work as they
relate to internal communication, social interac-
tion and employee satisfaction and commitment.
The Pros and Cons of Remote Work
Traditional work is based on tying an employee’s
time to job tasks and location. It is structured
around employees gathered in a central location,
which allows managers to coordinate activities and
advance internal communication. The traditional
work format enables sharing of social experience,
interpersonal coordination, modeling of work be-
haviors and giving and seeking advice. Virtual work,
by contrast, refers to employment configurations
outside of the traditional office — along a contin-
uum that ranges from occasional telecommuting to
“hoteling” (sharing office space in a company loca-
tion designed for use on a drop-in basis) to
home-based work to fully mobile employees.5
It is difficult to replicate all traditional office features
in a virtual office environment, and this makes man-
agement’s ability to build and maintain a corporate
culture more complex. Technology advancements,
such as instant messaging and social networking, allow
corporations to bridge some of the differences, offering
alternatives to some face-to-face interactions. At IBM,
for example, team members on conference calls with
clients can exchange work-related information via in-
stant messaging in real time with their cohorts, and
employees utilize a variety of virtual social networking
sites (including Facebook.com and IBM’s own site,
Beehive) to find and connect with other employees.
However, some issues require new management pro-
cesses and solutions that go beyond technology.
Early research has shown that employees and
companies have different experiences with remote
work and adapt to it differently.6 On the one hand,
both employees and companies see significant
benefits. Employees value spending less time and
money commuting, having more flexibility and au-
tonomy in their jobs and being more available to deal
with family responsibilities. This often translates
into greater job satisfaction, lower absenteeism and
higher employee retention. For companies, benefits
include increased productivity, improved customer
service and lower real estate costs. On the other hand,
both employees and companies point to challenges.
Employees report liabilities to working remotely, the
most serious being workplace isolation and a sense
that opportunities for advancement are more lim-
ited. Companies attempting to manage remote
employees cite a loss of organizational synergy, in-
creased concern about data security and a loss of
management control over remote employees.
This article focuses on four critical challenges
involving remote work that require management
attention: (1) finding the right work-life balance,
(2) overcoming workplace isolation, (3) compen-
sating for the lack of face-to-face communication,
and (4) compensating for the lack of visibility. (See
“The Key Challenges of Remote Work,” p. 66.) For
each of these issues, we offer a set of management
coping strategies drawn from our interviews with
managers and remote workers (see About the Re-
search”). By making the effort to understand
employee challenges, managers can apply these
strategies to their advantage. However, even with
supportive efforts by management, not everyone
can be successful working in remote arrangements.
As such, managers should hire confident, commu-
nicative, independent workers who will be able to
operate in challenging work environments.
Challenge No. 1: Finding the
Right Work-Life Balance
Managing the boundary between work and home
and integrating these two domains has become an
increasingly compelling and pressing issue for both
organizations and employees. Work and family de-
mands are often mutually incompatible, and
integrating them can be problematic and fraught
with tension.7 Lack of work-life balance can also
undermine manager and employee performance
and customer loyalty.
One of the main attractions of telecommuting
for employees is the perception that it will allow
MANAGING PEOPLE
FALL 2009 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 65
them to achieve a better blend between the de-
mands of work and family life.8 To date, there has
been limited research on work-life balance as it re-
lates to remote work arrangements. A recent study
suggests that telecommuting reduces work-family
conflicts by offering job autonomy and scheduling
flexibility.9 However, we found that remote work
can have the opposite effect: Remote workers often
found themselves working longer hours and strug-
gling to make time for their personal life. In many
cases, the idea of conducting personal chores dur-
ing work hours is not possible; some remote
employees end up working set office hours anyway.
Yet families of remote employees have the expecta-
tion that the person staying at home will also
manage household chores. This often leads to dis-
agreements and family distress.
We also found that most remote workers have dif-
ficulty disengaging from work. The majority of remote
professionals said they worked more hours per day
than they did in traditional work settings. They often
worked on weekends, holidays, evenings and during
hours when they would have been commuting.
Checking the last e-mail or voice message before going
to bed was a common ritual. What’s more, remote
workers tended to work even when they were sick and
would have gone home from a traditional office.
Such commitment clearly provides benefits to
employers. But remote employees often feel over-
worked and stressed. Several of them stated that,
given their heavy workloads, they would prefer
moving to a traditional office environment if the
opportunity arose. In one case, a manager quit his
remote job and joined a competitor who offered a
more traditional office arrangement.
Three key factors inhibit work-life balance in re-
mote work situations. The first factor is the absence
of the traditional boundaries (spatial, temporal or
social) between work and personal life. In tradi-
tional workplaces, such boundaries are defined by
when one starts and ends work. However, in remote
work arrangements, employees have to control and
manage their own time and learn to separate work
and home life. This can be difficult because the spa-
tial boundary between work and home is frequently
absent: Work is “always there. Complicating mat-
ters, digital and portable technologies (e.g., personal
digital assistants, cell phones and laptops) have
made work mobile. With less separation between
professional and personal roles, creating and main-
taining role boundaries is more difficult.
The second factor working against work-life
balance is the nature of remote work itself: The
work tends to be carried out differently. Although
the volume of communication is frequently greater
in remote work arrangements, this doesn’t neces-
sarily mean that the communication is more
effective; electronic communication suffers from a
lack of contextual cues and norms.
The third factor inhibiting a healthy work-life bal-
ance has to do with the psychological demands
employees place upon themselves, often to compen-
sate for their lack of visibility and role ambiguity. Many
remote employees (especially those who are members
of global teams) feel a greater need to prove themselves
by putting in longer hours and by being available be-
yond other people’s expectations, which adds to the
stress. In addition, several employees told us they felt
they needed to “overcommunicate and overpromote”
their work and accomplishments to become more vis-
ible to their colleagues working in corporate offices.
ABOUT THE RESEARCH
The qualitative research described here is part of our ongoing research on re-
mote workers. For part of this research phase, we worked with a group of
remote employees at IBM, which is a recognized leader in managing mobile
teams. More than 42% of IBM employees worldwide work remotely at least
part of the time; 15% work solely from home.
We conducted 52 semi-structured interviews with remote employees and
managers (full-time home-based workers, part-time home-based workers and
fully mobile employees) between October 2007 and February 2008 (42 with
employees, 10 with managers). Fifty-four percent were from IBM; the others
were employed by 19 companies in areas including human resources and ben-
efits services, instrumentation services, sales performance software and
health care products and services. Consistent with qualitative sampling, we
sampled a diverse group of remote employees along variables that may lead to
variations in results (i.e., different professions, employment tenures and re-
mote work arrangements). The majority worked from home full-time; the
others had some other remote work environment (e.g., two days at a corporate
office, part-time at a customer’s site, etc.). Functionally, the remote employees
represented communications, sales and marketing, public relations, finance,
technical/software development and support staff.
The interview questions were based on the existing theoretical back-
ground on virtual work. Although the specific questions for managers and
employees were distinct, we examined the following topics: (1) remote em-
ployees’ personal, organizational and customer benefits, (2) key personal
and professional challenges in working or managing remote office contexts,
(3) workplace isolation, (4) organizational communication, (5) promotion and
performance, (6) relationship building and trust, and (7) issues related to work-
life balance. Most interviews were conducted via telephone, and the
transcripts provided the data for this study.
SLOANREVIEW.MIT.EDU
66 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW FALL 20 09 SLOANREVIEW.MIT.EDU
Management Strategies In order to leverage the
potential of remote work arrangements, manage-
ment needs to set organizational norms for working
at home and help remote workers balance work and
family roles. We found that remote employees were
often confused about working hours or organiza-
tional norms of work-life balance. Companies can:
Set the tone on work norms. Successful manag-
ers of remote workers discuss “good practices” of
establishing life-balance with their team members.
This means formulating and communicating prac-
tices that they aim to facilitate. For example, some
managers advise team members not to work on
holidays or weekends, to sign off at certain times
and to leave BlackBerrys home during family vaca-
tions. Managers need to take the initiative by
modeling how they practice work-life balance.
Prioritize employee tasks. Managers should pri-
oritize tasks and provide frequent feedback to enable
remote workers to handle the heavy workload. Other-
wise, employees often feel there is no end to work, as
all assignments have the same sense of urgency.
Recognize the unique nature of remote work.
Remote work is conducted differently than tradi-
tional office work. It requires frequent and varied
types of communication, more intensive time
THE KEY CHALLENGES OF REMOTE WORK
Among the different challenges associated with managing remote employees, employees and managers cite the following as the most critical.
CHALLENGES
(DEFINITION) ILLUSTRATIVE QUOTES
WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Employees’ “satisfaction
and good functioning at
work and at home.
“People think that when you work at home, you must be able to prepare dinner on time, have your laundry done ... I
am just like, are you kidding? It is very hard to separate work from home, because they are physically together. The job
was so enormous, it was never done!” (Sales manager, female)
“I find myself doing work early in the morning, all throughout the day, and sometimes late into the evening. … There’s
no separation between your personal life and your work life. … It’s not compartmentalized like it used to be for me
when I would go to the office and leave my work at the office when I came home.(Business executive, male)
WORKPLACE
ISOLATION
Employees’ perceptions
of the availability of
coworkers, peers and
supervisors for work-
based social support.
“When you have new people, that’s a challenge, because it’s a lonely place to be when you’re just starting in an
organization. ... the greatest challenge you have being virtual is when you don’t know who to call to get a question
answered about something.(Senior vice president, female)
“It’s all that informal communication that you missed. You are not hearing about what people did on the weekend.
You also miss a lot of collaboration. We didn’t have the same kind of brainstorming.(Sales manager, female)
“We were commenting at the meeting this morning that she’s [remote employee] sometimes disconnected from
the things that we all understand very well. ... she was making suggestions. ... all the things she was suggesting are
already in process ... she didn’t look too good ... because she didn’t know. But it really wasn’t her fault. ... it’s harder
to be plugged into what’s going on when you’re not [at headquarters].(Communications employee, male)
LACK OF
FACE-TO-FACE
COMMUNICATION
Lack of in-person
contact.
“Not being able to run down the hall and get a question answered is a big disadvantage. ... there’s a big difference in
not being able to see the person’s face, cue in on their expressions and the nonverbal characteristics that really help
you understand something more thoroughly and just develop a better relationship.(Communications manager, male)
“It’s a little bit more challenging working remote than in the office, because you don’t have the opportunity to see
that [your colleagues’] door is open, and to go in. And a lot of times it’s off hours when I tend to be able to get in and
see my vice president.(Software manager, male)
“You weren’t running into the people in the lobby or hallway, and so trying to check in pretty regularly without being a
nuisance was a delicate balance.(Sales manager, female)
LACK OF VISIBILITY
A deficiency in “the pos-
sibility for supervisors
and others to observe
workers.
“I still think people are a little nervous about wondering whether remote employees are actually doing their jobs.
(Engineering manager, female)
“I think that there’s a lot of work that gets done in hallway conversations, and in side conversations that you’re not
having when you’re virtual. I think that if the boss is in a traditional office and you’re not ... the old adage out of sight,
out of mind, it’s somewhat true.(Business executive, male)
“There might be a great opportunity ... let’s say my direct manager meets and ... they’re looking for a stretch opportu-
nity for someone, and if I don’t happen to be on the call at that time, or walking down the hall, maybe someone from
someone else’s team would get considered for it.(Communications manager, female)
MANAGING PEOPLE
SLOANREVIEW.MIT.EDU FALL 2009 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 67
management and constant multitasking. When
planning and prioritizing work, management needs
to consider how much time activities might take.
Challenge No. 2: Overcoming
Workplace Isolation
The second big challenge of remote work is dealing with
workplace isolation and its implications. Employees
who feel isolated often have lower job satisfaction, lower
organizational commitment and increased turnover.10
Remote employees we spoke to described the experi-
ence of workplace isolation as “not knowing where or
whom to turn to when questions arose,” “being discon-
nected from others in the organization” and having “no
one to turn to when they needed advice or to bounce
ideas. When they were able to contact someone, they
said it took longer to get the advice and support they
needed than it did in traditional office setups.
Remote employees develop isolation perceptions
when they sense an absence of support from co-
workers and managers. These perceptions are
amplified in remote work environments due to re-
duced opportunities for social and emotional
interaction with coworkers. Remote employees
sometimes described their home offices as “prisons.
Those who experienced isolation missed the social
environment of a traditional workplace, especially
the informal chats with colleagues, coffee breaks
and opportunities to build relationships. Social iso-
lation experiences were particularly common
among employees who live alone, have recently re-
located or are newcomers to the organization.
A lack of management action was often cited as
a major factor in an employee’s sense of workplace
isolation. Employees who experienced workplace
isolation often stated that their managers — who
operate as surrogates for the organization — did
not conduct one-to-one meetings, did not follow
up on action items and, at times, gave the impres-
sion of not being organized or not paying attention
to them and/or their contributions.
Management Strategies Employees’ isolation
perceptions are closely linked to managers’ actions.
Some remote employees see managers as the main
conduit for communication and the ones responsi-
ble for creating a sense of belonging. To reduce
isolation, effective managers can:
Check in informally. Managers who reduced the
effects of workplace isolation conducted frequent,
informal, one-to-one or team meetings, sometimes
in person. They checked in with employees to un-
derstand their issues and concerns relating to remote
work arrangements. Informal discussions allow for
give and take without making the remote worker
self-conscious. They also convey the manager’s
availability and support. Employees we interviewed
were able to identify managers who did this well and
thus were able to foster strong organizational com-
mitment and a sense of belonging.
Promote social interaction among team mem-
bers. Managers can further reduce the perceptions
of workplace isolation by enhancing social interac-
tions among virtual team members and between the
manager and remote workers. Effective managers
held formal weekly meetings to share informal and
personal news, and they supported social network-
ing among remote employees. At a company that
provides infrastructure software, for example, re-
mote employees from different locations and
functional areas are encouraged to introduce them-
selves, exchange pictures and anecdotes about
vacations and engage in games with prizes during
informal teleconference meetings. In addition to
being fun, these activities bring the team together. At
other companies, virtual employees celebrate em-
ployee birthdays, exchange holiday gifts and share
recipes and pictures. Additionally, face-to-face fo-
rums, conferences, workshops and get-togethers at
the organizational or functional level provide good
opportunities for remote employees to interact pro-
fessionally and socially with the people they work
with. These gatherings allow remote employees to
learn about the company and share perspectives and
experiences about working virtually. Managers who
take their role of promoting the corporate commu-
nity seriously find that their efforts are well received.
Encourage employee pairing and mentoring.
Pairing remote employees with traditional office
employees can help employees adjust to virtual
situations. This works particularly well when there
is a company office nearby where remote employ-
ees can attend social events and have informal
meetings with their traditional office colleagues.
Other companies, including an instrumentation
supplier, find benefits in mentoring programs or
68 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW FALL 20 09 SLOANREVIEW.MIT.EDU
MANAGING PEOPLE
“buddy systems, where new remote employees are
encouraged to team up with individuals who have
lots of experience working remotely.
Facilitate entry for new employees. Managers
can smooth the way for new remote employees by
providing welcome packages containing a list of
team members with personal and contact informa-
tion and photos. Managers should encourage team
members to welcome the new employee with offers
of help and support and share their experiences and
best practices for remote offices.
Challenge No. 3: Compensating
for the Lack of Face-to-Face
Communication
With remote work, the primary mode of communica-
tion is electronic (e-mail, conference calls, text
messages). This contributes to feelings of workplace
isolation and makes it more difficult for remote em-
ployees to develop personal relationships and trust.
Electronic communication generally lacks the rich-
ness11 and social presence associated with face-to-face
communication.12 Remote employees noted that re-
mote communication takes longer and requires more
explanation because of the missing cues. In settings
that rely on electronic communication, the volume of
communication may be high but the efficiency is poor.
We find that its inefficiency (the lack of attentiveness,
the absence of contextual cues and norms and the po-
tential for misinterpretation) can lead to feelings of
frustration on the part of remote employees.
Management Strategies Managers should enable
and promote opportunities for face-to-face com-
munication and take steps to help remote employees
cope with the challenges of virtual communication.
Managers can:
Arrange face-to-face meetings with employees.
To the extent possible, traditional managers should
meet face-to-face at least once a year with their re-
mote team at company headquarters. Remote
employees talked about the value of such meetings
and requested more of such contacts.
Use technology informally. When face-to-face
meetings are not possible, conference calls, instant mes-
saging and e-mails can be a partial substitute. But to the
extent possible, these forms of communication should
be used informally. For example, rather than starting
the weekly meetings with formal agenda items, manag-
ers can begin with a more informal discussion about
personal and family news and exchange company in-
formation. The informal give-and-take can supplement
the more formal communication about goals and ac-
tivities and help with relationship building.
Challenge No. 4: Compensating
for the Lack of Visibility
Many remote employees feel that their lack of visibil-
ity limits their contributions to the company’s success
and their career advancement opportunities. Al-
though some remote employees did not present this
as a major concern, others felt that, as remote work-
ers, they had to work harder than traditional
employees to be recognized or promoted. As evi-
dence, they noted occasions when they did not learn
of important meetings, potential project assignments
or new positions until it was too late. Some remote
employees blamed their low visibility on a reluctance
to trumpet their own achievements. In addition to
losing out on opportunities, some remote employees
worried that their unrecognized contributions could
result in lower performance evaluations.
Management Strategies For remote employees,
managers operate as surrogates for the organization. A
manager’s way of dealing with subordinates can be a
good predictor of employee job satisfaction, commit-
ment level, performance and turnover intentions.13
Supportive managers can play critical roles in reduc-
ing employee uncertainty, ambiguity and “out of sight,
out of mind” concerns. To boost the visibility of re-
mote employees, managers and companies can:
Promote individual and team achievements.
Supportive managers find ways to share informa-
tion about individual and team efforts throughout
the organization. For example, one manager at a
software company noted that she e-mails her boss
each week describing some of the key accomplish-
ments of her remote employees.
Signal management accessibility. In order to
provide employees opportunities to highlight their
achievements, managers need to communicate that
they are open to both formal and informal conver-
sations. Managers should provide information on
when they are available and set guidelines for how
and when they will respond to phone calls, e-mails
SLOANREVIEW.MIT.EDU FALL 2009 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 69
and other communication. In addition, managers
should use time during team meetings and one-on-
one conversations to check in on organizational or
personal issues that need to be addressed.
Develop best practices. Companies should de-
velop and implement training that addresses the
unique challenges of remote work and best practices
for coping with these challenges. The training should
be offered as broadly as possible — to employees
new to remote work, to more experienced remote
workers, to in-house support staff and to other rel-
evant managers. To encourage communication
across the organization, managers should develop a
database about team members’ personal informa-
tion and their specific expertise. In addition, they
should create a set of frequently asked questions
that addresses the important issues related to re-
mote work and how these issues should be handled.
ADVANCES IN TECHNOLOGY and communication
have made the world smaller and created a global
workplace. But this has also isolated employees both
physically and psychologically from their organiza-
tions and from their coworkers. Reaping benefits
from the new environment will require companies
to develop a better understanding of what remote
workers need to establish healthy boundaries be-
tween home and work, to communicate with
managers and coworkers and to feel professionally
motivated and valued. Successful companies will
find ways to adjust to the differences and provide
specialized training, mentoring and broad oppor-
tunities for social and business interactions with
both traditional and remote employees.
Jay Mulki and Fleura Bardhi are assistant professors
of marketing at Northeastern University; Felicia
Lassk is an associate professor at Northeastern.
Jayne Nanavaty-Dahl is a remote manager for
International Business Machines Corp., residing
in Beaverton, Oregon, where she manages global
remote teams. Comment on this article or contact
the authors at smrfeedback@mit.edu.
REFERENCES
1. C. Hymowitz, “Have Advice Will Travel: Lacking Perma-
nent Offices, Accenture’s Executives Run ‘Virtual’
Company on the Fly,” Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2006.
2. A. Balderrama, “Work from Home in Your Pajamas,
July 9, 2008, www.careerbuilder.com.
3. R.S. Gajendran and D.A. Harrison, “The Good, the Bad,
and the Unknown About Telecommuting: Meta-Analysis of
Psychological Mediators and Individual Consequences,
Journal of Applied Psychology 92, no. 6 (2007): 1524-1541.
4. “The Virtual Workforce,” BusinessWeek, March 5,
2007, 6.
5. T.H. Davenport and K. Pearlson, “Two Cheers for the
Virtual Office,” Sloan Management Review 39, no. 4
(summer 1998): 51-65.
6. Gajendran and Harrison, “The Good, the Bad, and the
Unknown”; and D.E. Bailey and N.B. Kurland, “A Review
of Telework Research: Findings, New Directions and Les-
sons for the Study of Modern Work,” Journal of
Organizational Behavior 23, no. 4 (2002): 383-400.
7. J.H. Greenhaus and G.N. Powell, “When Work and
Family Are Allies: A Theory of Work-Family Enrichment,
Academy of Management Review 31, no. 1 (2006): 72–92;
J.E. Jennings and M.S. McDougald, “Work-Family Inter-
face Experiences and Coping Strategies: Implications for
Entrepreneurship Research and Practice,” Academy of
Management Review 32, no. 3 (2007): 747-760; and G.E.
Kreiner, “Consequences of Work-Home Segmentation or
Integration: A Person-Environment Fit Perspective,” Jour-
nal of Organizational Behavior 27, no. 4 (2006): 485-507.
8. J. Kugelmass, “Telecommuting: A Manager’s Guide to
Flexible Work Arrangements” (New York: Jossey-Bass,
1995).
9. T.D. Golden, J.F. Veiga, and Z. Simsek, “Telecommut-
ing’s Differential Impact on Work-Family Conflict: Is There
No Place Like Home?,” Journal of Applied Psychology 91,
no. 6 (November 2006): 1340-1350.
10. J.P. Mulki, W.B. Locander, G.W. Marshall, E.G. Harris
and J. Hensel, “Workplace Isolation, Salesperson Com-
mitment and Job Performance,” Journal of Personal
Selling & Sales Management 28, no. 1 (2008): 67-78.
11. According to R.L. Daft and R.H. Lengel, information
richness is the extent to which media are able to bridge
different frames of reference, carry multiple cues, reduce
equivocality and minimize ambiguity; see R.L. Daft and
R.H. Lengel, “Organizational Information Requirements,
Media Richness and Structural Design,” Management
Science 32, no. 5 (1986): 554-571.
12. According to Daft and Lengel, social presence is the
degree to which the communication medium conveys
the physical presence and the nonverbal and social cues
of the participants. This is particularly true for e-mails and
instant messages, which are devoid of facial expressions,
gestures or vocal intonation, as well as indicators of social
position. See R.L. Daft, R.H. Lengel, and L.K. Trevino,
“Message Equivocality, Media Selection and Manager
Performance: Implications for Information Systems,
MIS Quarterly 11, no. 3 (1987): 355-366.
13. J.P. Mulki, F. Jaramillo, and W.B. Locander, “Effects of
Ethical Climate and Supervisory Trust on Salespersons
Job Attitudes and Intentions to Quit,” Journal of Personal
Selling & Sales Management 26, no. 1 (2006): 19-26.
Reprint 51116.
Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technolog y, 2009.
All rights reserved.
PDFs Reprints Permission to Copy Back Issues
Articles published in MIT Sloan Management Review are
copyrighted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
unless otherwise specified at the end of an article.
Electronic copies of MIT Sloan Management Review
articles as well as traditional reprints and back issues can
be purchased on our Web site: sloanreview.mit.edu or
you may order through our Business Service Center
(9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET) at the phone numbers listed below.
To reproduce or transmit one or more MIT Sloan
Management Review articles by electronic or mechanical
means
(including photocopying or archiving in any
information storage or retrieval system)
requires written
permission.
To request permission, use our Web site
(sloanreview.mit.edu), call or e-mail:
Toll-free
in U.S. and Canada: 877-727-7170
International: 617-253-7170
Fax: 617-258-9739
e-mail: smrpermissions@mit.edu
Posting of full-text SMR articles on publicly accessible
Internet sites is prohibited. To obtain permission to post
articles on secure and/or password-protected intranet sites,
e-mail your request to smrpermissions@mit.edu.
Hyperlinking to SMR content: SMR posts abstracts of
articles and selected free content at www.sloanreview.mit.edu.
Hyperlinking to article abstracts or free content does not
require written permission.
MIT Sloan Management Review
77 Massachusetts Ave., E60-100
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
e-mail: smrorders@mit.edu
... Among the most critical aspects are the lack of sociability and identification with one's own organisation and workplace (Toscano and Zappalà 2020a, b), as well as the purely logistical aspects resulting from the physical impossibility of going to the office to access necessary tools or information (Gheno and Pesenti 2021;Bonacini et al. 2021). Unfavourable aspects also include perceptions of lower visibility or recognition of one's work (Toscano and Zappalà 2020b) and lower perceptions of career and protection advancement opportunities (Mulki et al. 2009;Arntz et al. 2020). Finally, areas considered highly problematic include feeling constantly monitored (Leonardi et al. 2010;Bondanini et al. 2020), receiving negative comments from colleagues or supervisors (Mulki et al. 2009), and difficulty concentrating or distracting oneself from work because of the intrusive nature of new technologies (Molino et al. 2020;Bondanini et al. 2020). ...
... Unfavourable aspects also include perceptions of lower visibility or recognition of one's work (Toscano and Zappalà 2020b) and lower perceptions of career and protection advancement opportunities (Mulki et al. 2009;Arntz et al. 2020). Finally, areas considered highly problematic include feeling constantly monitored (Leonardi et al. 2010;Bondanini et al. 2020), receiving negative comments from colleagues or supervisors (Mulki et al. 2009), and difficulty concentrating or distracting oneself from work because of the intrusive nature of new technologies (Molino et al. 2020;Bondanini et al. 2020). Therefore, the original questionnaire, which would later be subjected to psychometric analysis, consisted of 33 items. ...
... Similarly, several studies and systematic reviews, such as those of Sousa-Poza and Sousa-Poza (2000) and Faragher et al. (2013), confirm that good relationships with colleagues and superiors are positively associated with job satisfaction, which is why we hypothesised a residual correlation between items 5 and 6. Finally, items 8 and 9, both belonging to the disadvantages dimension, were correlated in the residuals since, as Mulki et al. (2009) and Barsness et al. (2005) state, one of the most critical elements of remote working is the sense of isolation, both social and physical, which is often associated with perceived reduced opportunities and feeling of decreased psychological meaning ascribed to one's work. All the estimates resulted to be statistically significant and are reported in Fig. 2. Loadings ranged from 0.44 to 0.82 for the Benefits dimension and from 0.60 to 0.84 for the Disadvantages dimension. ...
Article
Full-text available
The changes that are constantly occurring in the labour sector have led organisations and companies to move towards digital transformation. This process was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and conducted to a massive recourse to the practice of remote working , which in this study is understood as the term for the way of performing work outside the usual workplace and with the support of ICT. Currently, there are no flexible scales in the literature that allow measuring the benefits and disadvantages of remote working with a single instrument. Thus, the distinction between the positive and negative consequences of working remotely, substantiated by a solid literature, provides a framework for a system-atical understanding of the issue. The aim of the present study is to develop and validate a scale on remote working benefits and disadvantages (RW-B&D scale). For this end, a preliminary Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) with 304 participants, a tailored EFA with a sample of 301 workers and a Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) with 677 workers were conducted. Participants were all Italian employees who worked remotely during the period of the COVID-19 health emergency. Data were collected between October 2020 and April 2021. The psychometric robustness of the model was assessed through bootstrap validation (5000 resamples), fit indices testing and measurement of factorial invariance. The statistical analyses demonstrated the bifactorial nature of the scale, supporting the research hypothesis. The model showed good fit indices, bootstrap validation reported statistically significant saturations, good reliability indices, and convergent and discriminant validity. Measurement invariance was tested for gender and organisational sector. The results suggested that the novel scale facilitates the quantitative measurement of the benefits and disadvantages associated with remote working in empirical terms. For this reason, it could be a streamlined and psychometrically valid instrument to identify the potential difficulties arising from remote working and, at the same time, the positive aspects that can be implemented to improve organisational well-being.
... If this is done properly then it can boost productivity and employee motivation (Bick et al., 2020;Deshpande et al., 2016). However, if this is done poorly, it can result in poor productivity and demotivate employees (Mulki et al., 2009). ...
... From the employer's perspective, there is reduced supervision, greater levels of accountability on the part of the employee, delays in making decisions, communication noise that may distort the communication process, such as internet issues, and computer issues (technological issues), and having to coordinate work schedules for all employees. From the employee's perspective, some of the challenges of remote work include overcoming workplace isolation, finding that balance between work and life, the lack of faceto-face communication, the lack of visibility, and job insecurity (Mulki et al., 2009). One of the major challenges with remote work is work-life balance as this can adversely affect productivity and employee morale. ...
... While remote work can offer workers greater autonomy, and the flexibility to schedule their work, it can cause higher levels of distress if not managed appropriately by the individual. Mulki et al. (2009) found that professionals who worked remotely often worked on holidays and weekends, as well as commute hours. Further persons often checked their emails and voicemails before going to bed and worked even when they were sick. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
During an extended crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, human resource (HR) practitioners play a key role in assisting management and employees to navigate the unknown. This pandemic has forced organizations to reconsider alternative work arrangements as employers are exploring innovative approaches to allow for business continuity. The importance and use of technology through virtual work has been the ‘lifeline’ to businesses when national lockdowns were implemented by governments around the world. Moving forward, HR practitioners must be innovative in their approaches to work. Organizations should reconsider their rigid views of flexible work arrangements such as remote work, flexi-time, compressed work schedules, and work and job sharing that have been implemented by some organizations on a smaller scale prior to the pandemic. HR practitioners need to adapt workplace practices and policies to continue to keep workers engaged and motivated while finding the right ‘fit’ for employees to complete their work tasks and maintain a work-life balance.
... Continually, as the time has pass but not without evolving and spreading the practice of easy overcoming daily life and business routines the 2000 -2010 decade authors (Mulki et al., 2009) has detected the attitude from both companies and customers towards remote work and what brings that faster, changeable and more accessible business interconnection: "Employees report liabilities to working remotely, the most serious being workplace isolation and a sense that opportunities for advancement are more limited. Companies attempting to manage remote employees cite a loss of organizational synergy, increased concern about data security and a loss of management control over remote employees." ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The world has witnessed a historic shift in the labor market in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While some companies used to offer the possibility of working from home as an advantage, now it has become the norm for most companies. By 2025, it is estimated that 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days a month. Although 2020 can be considered the year of remote working, this is just the beginning because we see that the trend continues in 2022. Even in new circumstances such as Health Crisis, all variations of the distance jobs and hybrid working models were not just the outcomes of the global business conspiracy but true working model tools which have been developed since evolutional decades of information technologies. The methods used in the paper are literature review, data analysis, descriptive statistics and comparative method. The results presented in the paper showed that remote workers will become the new norm in the business world.
... Working from home has been touted as a technique for successfully balancing work and home obligations, to mitigate the expected negative outcomes of work-home conflict experiences. However, little empirical evidence has been found to support that claim (e.g., Allen et al., 2013;Breaugh and Farabee, 2012;Breaugh and Frye, 2008;Delanoeije et al., 2019;Eddelston and Mulki, 2017 Madsen, 2003;Mulki et al., 2009;Van der Lippe and Lippényi, 2018). Thus, working remotely holds the potential for increased experiences of tension and strain. ...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose Why did some individuals have relatively little trouble balancing work and home demands during the COVID-19 lockdown, while others felt overwhelmed? Although ample studies have recently been generated regarding COVID-19 employment challenges, this question has not yet received sufficient scholarly attention. This research integrates work–home conflict theories with the paradox-mindset framework, in order to suggest a new theoretical approach for understanding individual differences in addressing work–home conflict. Design/methodology/approach During the first two weeks of the COVID-19 epidemic in Israel, the author gathered 117 completed questionnaires from their colleagues in the Israeli higher-education system, who were working remotely and teaching online during the lockdown imposed to control the epidemic. Based on a path-model analysis, the author examined whether their experiences of strain and tension in the work domain might be indirectly and positively associated with workplace outcomes via positive associations between these experiences and paradox mindset, as well as negative associations between paradox mindset and work-to-home conflict (WTH) and home-to-work (HTW) conflict. Findings The study findings highlight the beneficial effect of paradox mindset on the experience of work–home conflict and its outcomes. Although working remotely has great potential to increase the strain and tension experienced by employees, applying a paradox mindset reduces the experience of work–home conflict and is positively associated with certain work outcomes. Originality/value This research integrates work–home conflict theories with the paradox-mindset framework. The beneficial effects of a paradox mindset on the experience of work–home conflict and its outcomes are highlighted.
Article
Full-text available
Remote working offers a series of benefits not only to the employees individually but importantly to the companies as a whole. This research discusses how altering business strategy to accommodate remote working may boost the profitability of a firm. More specifically, we proposed the RW (Remote-Work) led growth hypothesis. We derived this hypothesis from two perspectives: the VEP (Virtual employee productivity) and VOC (Cost-cutting through the virtual office). We argued that employee productivity increases through factors such as work-life balance and employee engagement. Additionally, a firm can reduce operational expenses by adopting a work-from-home model. Although working remotely can increase the profitability of a firm, certain hidden expenses must be evaluated. This research also discusses these challenges that may cause the degrowth of a firm. We recommend that firms should resolve these issues to make a robust growth strategy that can achieve growth in the remote working model. The remote work trend is a recent phenomenon and there is not enough empirically workable dataset from different firms. Some post-pandemic surveys suggest that companies enjoyed profits to some extent but these surveys lack rigorous empirical models.
Article
Full-text available
Objetivo: apresentar o fenômeno da transformação do local de trabalho e propor um modelo para apoiar gestores e consultores na implantação de um espaço digital, um desafio que ganhou urgência com a pandemia da Covid-19. Estado da arte: o fenômeno da transformação do local de trabalho administrativo vem sendo estudado a partir de quatro óticas: da tecnologia, da mão de obra digital, da virtualidade ou trabalho virtual, e da transformação organizacional digital. Originalidade: o artigo trata de um tema contemporâneo e propõe um modelo original, indicando os fatores críticos para implantação do local de trabalho digital. Impactos: gestores e consultores poderão adotar o modelo proposto, adaptando-o para orientar a transformação do trabalho em empresas e outras organizações. O modelo oferece visão ampla e integrada de fatores de para a implantação do local de trabalho digital.
Chapter
This chapter analyses the effects of remote work on family relationships during confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The study is centered on faculty and staff members from a private business school in Puebla, Mexico. The research was conducted almost five months after the university closed its doors and moved all its activities online, having participants time to adapt to the new normal. A scale was developed and validated, and later on, it was applied in a country where family values, cultures, and traditions are strong. The scale included five distinct areas of study: remote working conditions, time and task management, work performance, stress, and family relations. All the business school faculty and administrative staff were invited to participate in the study. Results show employees' perceptions about how working remotely positively or negatively affected their relationships at home and their productivity at work, leading to the design of best practices and useful guidelines that will minimize the adverse effects of remote work while enhancing the positive ones.
Presentation
Full-text available
Key address at the 4th International Conference on Challenges in Emerging Economies at the KJ Somaiya Institute of Management, India. Address was on "Agility and adaptability in the VUCA environment"
Article
Full-text available
A field study of 95 middle-level and upper-level managers was undertaken to explain top managers' selection of communication media. The findings indicate that media vary in their capacity to convey information cues, and that media richness is correlated with message equivocality. Managers prefer rich media for equivocal communications and less rich media for unequivocal communications. The data suggest that high performing managers are more sensitive to the relationship between message equivocality and media richness than low performing managers. Implications for managers' use of information systems and electronic media are discussed.
Article
Full-text available
We define work-family enrichment as the extent to which experiences in one role improve the quality of life in the other role. In this article we propose a theoretical model of work-family enrichment and offer a series of research propositions that reflect two paths to enrichment: an instrumental path and an affective path. We then examine the implications of the model for future research on the work-family enrichment process.
Article
Full-text available
This study demonstrates how the interaction between an individual's work-home segmentation preference and the perceived segmentation provided by the workplace affects work-home conflict (WHC), stress, and job satisfaction. Using a person-environment (P-E) fit theoretical base and methodology, data from 325 employees in a wide variety of occupations and organizations illustrate significant fit effects on these outcomes. Results from polynomial regression and response surface methodology highlight important asymmetric effects found in these P-E fit relationships. By demonstrating the asymmetric results of fit effects, the findings challenge previous research, which has typically advocated an integration of work and home in order to ameliorate role conflict and stress. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Full-text available
Telework has inspired research in disciplines ranging from transportation and urban planning to ethics, law, sociology, and organizational studies. In our review of this literature, we seek answers to three questions: who participates in telework, why they do, and what happens when they do? Who teleworks remains elusive, but research suggests that male professionals and female clerical workers predominate. Notably, work-related factors like managers' willingness are most predictive of which employees will telework. Employees' motivations for teleworking are also unclear, as commonly perceived reasons such as commute reduction and family obligations do not appear instrumental. On the firms' side, managers' reluctance, forged by concerns about cost and control and bolstered by little perceived need, inhibits the creation of telework programmes. As for outcomes, little clear evidence exists that telework increases job satisfaction and productivity, as it is often asserted to do. We suggest three steps for future research may provide richer insights: consider group and organizational level impacts to understand who telework affects, reconsider why people telework, and emphasize theory-building and links to existing organizational theories. We conclude with lessons learned from the telework literature that may be relevant to research on new work forms and workplaces. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Full-text available
This paper answers the question, "Why do organizations process information?" Uncertainty and equivocality are defined as two forces that influence information processing in organizations. Organization structure and internal systems determine both the amount and richness of information provided to managers. Models are proposed that show how organizations can be designed to meet the information needs of technology, interdepartmental relations, and the environment. One implication for managers is that a major problem is lack of clarity, not lack of data. The models indicate how organizations can be designed to provide information mechanisms to both reduce uncertainty and resolve equivocality.
Article
Full-text available
The literature on the impact of telecommuting on work-family conflict has been equivocal, asserting that telecommuting enhances work-life balance and reduces conflict, or countering that it increases conflict as more time and emotional energy are allocated to family. Surveying 454 professional-level employees who split their work time between an office and home, the authors examined how extensively working in this mode impacts work-to-family conflict and family-to-work conflict, as well as the contextual impact of job autonomy, scheduling flexibility, and household size. As hypothesized, the findings suggest that telecommuting has a differential impact on work-family conflict, such that the more extensively individuals work in this mode, the lower their work-to-family conflict, but the higher their family-to-work conflict. Additionally, job autonomy and scheduling flexibility were found to positively moderate telecommuting's impact on work-to-family conflict, but household size was found to negatively moderate telecommuting's impact on family-to-work conflict, suggesting that contextual factors may be domain specific.
Article
The entrepreneurship literature has been criticized for providing inadequate accounts of business owners' actual experiences and challenges. Work-family interface (WFI) considerations in particular are noticeably absent from much theorizing and research-despite the importance of such considerations to entrepreneurs themselves. We demonstrate how constructs from the WFI literature can help address an important entrepreneurship question that has not been answered satisfactorily to date: Why is there a persistent performance differential between male-headed and female-headed firms?
Article
Workplace isolation has been recognized as a critical issue facing salespeople in field offices. Studies have recognized that field salespeople are physically and psychologically isolated, but there is little empirical research on the effects of perceived isolation on important job outcomes. One important issue that has yet to be considered is the effect of workplace isolation on trust in supervisors and coworkers. The current study uses a sample of pharmaceutical salespeople to replicate previous results pertaining to workplace isolation effects and to test an integrated model of workplace isolation, salesperson satisfaction, trust, organizational commitment, and overall job performance. The results reveal that perceptions of workplace isolation negatively affect trust in supervisors and coworkers and that the relationship between trust (in supervisors and coworkers) and organizational commitment is mediated by satisfaction with supervisors and coworkers. Further, the findings confirm previous research that indicates that organizational commitment is positively related to salesperson job performance.
Article
This study builds on previous research to investigate the integrated effects of ethical climate and supervisory trust on salesperson’s job attitudes and intentions to quit. Responses from 344 salespeople who work for a global pharmaceutical company were used to examine the relationships among ethical climate, trust in supervisor, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and turnover intention. Results indicate that ethical climate is a significant predictor of trust in supervisor, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment. Also, results show that trust in supervisor is an antecedent of job satisfaction and turnover intention. Implications for academicians and practitioners are discussed.