UAlbany Study: Perceptions of Fairness a Critical Component of Telework Arrangements
ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 15, 2022) — Telework, a flexible work arrangement which allows employees to perform duties remotely by using information and telecommunication technologies (ICTs), has taken on an expanded role in the American workplace following the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations see telework as a means for maintaining continuity of operations plans, recruitment and retention of high-quality employees and enhancing organization effectiveness.
Yet, a new study by researchers at the University at Albany points to a gap in perceptions about telework among employees who telecommute and those who work only in-person. The findings suggest that managers and supervisors should also be mindful of non-teleworkers’ perceived lack of fairness and effectiveness when enacting telework arrangements.
The article, “The Perspective of Non-Teleworkers on the Impacts of Coworkers’ Telework: Assessing Individual and Organizational Outcomes,” was recently published online in Public Performance & Management Review.
The study, conducted by Assistant Professor of Public Administration and Policy Hongseok Lee, and CTG UAlbany Research Director Mila Gascó-Hernandez, showed that non-teleworkers are less likely to perceive a positive impact of coworkers’ telework on individual outcomes, such as personal productivity, work stress, and desire to stay in organization.
Further, “given that employees’ perceptions about individual outcomes shape their perceptions about organizational ones, we also found that non-teleworkers perceive less positive impact of telework on organizational outcomes than do routine teleworkers,” said Lee. “In this respect, non-teleworkers are also less likely to regard telework as positive for their organizations than teleworkers who have benefited from the ability to balance career and family obligations by working remotely.”
"These findings are consistent with some previous research that suggested that telework can pose challenges of knowledge sharing, workplace communication, and team building between non-teleworkers and teleworkers,” said Mila Gascó-Hernandez, who is also an Associate Professor of Public Administration and Policy at Rockefeller College. “Additionally, interruptions and challenges posed by the use of telework at the workplace may increase non-teleworkers’ stress levels that may hinder non-teleworkers from achieving work-life balance.”
The results indicate that while telework has been viewed recently as a work-process innovation designed to improve work practices and employee morale, the conflicting views about telework in public organizations indicate a need at better communication between managers and employees in terms of expectations, fairness, and the perceived benefits of telework arrangements on the overall organization.
"We should be cautious about attributing non-teleworkers’ adverse reactions toward telework to teleworkers’ distraction from work and moral hazard,” continued Lee. “Instead, we want to highlight that telework inherently brings adjustments to work processes, potentially increasing workloads of non-teleworkers and disturbing work coordination and learning among organizational members, which is crucial for higher individual and organizational performance.”