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Telecommuting makes life worse for some working parents, study says

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For stressed-out working parents, telecommuting seems like an intuitive solution to improving the juggle and reducing their time squeeze. But according to surprising research published in the Journal of Business and Psychology and reported recently on Life Inc., telecommuting may actually make matters worse for some parents with hectic lives.

The article by Linda Carroll explains that the very employees who may desire the flexibility to work remotely the most actually appear to suffer a higher risk of burnout when their wish is granted and they start working from home. Why? Carroll explains:

That’s because when job and family are in the same place, some workers feel there is no chance for downtime —no respite or time to relax, said Timothy Golden, an associate professor of management at the Lally School of Management and Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“A teleworker may feel conflict more because you’re being constantly reminded of your home role: whether it’s what you need to do as a parent or household chores,” Golden said. “And that can make exhaustion worse.”

The study surveyed the relatively modest number of 316 employees at a computer firm that allowed telecommuting, asking them to rate their level of job-family conflict and exhaustion. When the researchers crunched the numbers, they discovered that while those with low levels of work-life conflict got a ton out of working from home, those that were already finding the balancing act hard found it even more difficult when working remotely.

Besides telecommuting parents failing to set appropriate boundaries between work and home, another possible explanation for this increase in burnout among some parents who telecommute could be the mistaken belief that working from home is a good opportunity to cut back on child care. With additional family responsibilities and, in reality, the same amount of work as in the office, these parents could quickly reach the breaking point.

What do you think: Does the freedom to telecommute ever make the work-life juggle psychologically harder?

At Net:Work, we will explore the challenges of avoiding burnout and policing work-life boundaries. The event will be held in San Francisco on Dec. 8.

Image courtesy of Flickr use skeddy in NYC

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