Telecommuting Adds Hours to Workweek, UT Study Shows

Dreaming of leaving your cubicle to work from home in your pajamas? Better think twice—telecommuting might not be all it’s cracked up to be, according to new UT research.

In a recent study co-authored by Jennifer Glass of UT’s Population Research Center, almost the entire 30 percent of respondents who telecommute say they’ve added five to seven hours to their normal 40-hour workweeks. (A “telecommuter,” as defined by Glass, is any employee who logs one or more hours of work per week outside of his or her usual work site.) This data was gathered from two national sources: the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth panel and special supplements from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

Glass’ findings, published in Monthly Labor Review, are a bit counterintuitive: telecommuting, which should be used as a tool to reduce time spent in the office, may be misused by employers to squeeze extra hours out of their workers.

And it gets worse. “The sad part is, we went on to look at the wage consequences, and it turns out that these telecommuters aren’t being compensated,” Glass says. “Employers get extra work out of their employees and don’t have to pay for it.”

But that can change. As it’s currently practiced, telecommuting could give employers an advantage over their employees, but Glass maintains that improving telecommuting must start with the workers themselves.

“I don’t think the incentive to change telecommuting will come from employers,” she says. “Employee demand is what has the power to alter this situation.”

Despite the current drawbacks, Glass has high hopes for the future of telecommuting.

“There’s a lot of potential with telecommuting,” she says. “There are some insightful companies out there that are providing great examples of how it can be used. The question is: will it ever be adopted as the way to do business?”

Until that question is answered, it appears that employees’ best bet may be to “hold the phone” on telecommuting.

Photo by Susy Morris via Flickr Creative Commons


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