The Virtual Office Gains Momentum

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The Virtual Office Gains Momentum

It's happening everywhere.  People all around you in the café are tapping away on their laptops and calling clients on their cell phones.  These people aren't taking a break from the office — this is their office. 

The question is, "What impact do these virtual workers, whether at home or in public spaces, have on productivity and other key business metrics?" 

Study after study confirms that work environment does affect productivity and that workers with control over where they work are more productive.  Let's take a look at the evidence:

A new study out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee suggests that employees who telecommute for the majority of the "work week" are more satisfied with their jobs than those working mostly in the office.1 

The study points out a key reason for this greater satisfaction:  Remote workers are shielded from much of the distracting and stressful aspects of the workplace, such as office politics, interruptions, constant meetings, and information overload.  With lower stress and fewer distractions, employees can prevent work from seeping into their personal lives, which leads to higher satisfaction.

Another interesting study was conducted by researchers from Brigham Young University.  They polled 24,436 IBM employees in 75 countries, to identify the point when the total number of hours worked in a week interfered with personal and family life.2

For office workers on a regular schedule, the breaking point was 38 hours per week.  On the other hand, employees with a flexible schedule and the option to telecommute were able to clock 57 hours per week before experiencing such conflict.  This ability to balance work and family life better than office workers leads, of course, to increased job satisfaction.

The author of the study, E. Jeffrey Hill, a professor in BYU's School of Family Life, was a pioneering telecommuter at IBM starting in 1990.  According to Hill, "Managers were initially skeptical about the wisdom of working at home and said things like 'If we can't see them, how can we know they are working?'"  He adds that today, more than 80 percent of IBM managers agree that productivity increases in a flexible environment. 

A recent study from the University of Exeter offers an indirect reason for greater productivity from virtual workers.  The study revealed that employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier, but they're also up to 32 percent more productive.3

The research involved more than 2,000 office workers...

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