Telecommuting and Intra-Organizational Communication
Abstract: This study represents a preliminary step towards developing an understanding of how telework arrangements affect intra-organizational communication. The following general research questions are addressed: (1) Do telework arrangements change the way in which teleworkers communicate with their superiors, their subordinates, their colleagues, and their clients? (2) Do telework arrangements change the way in which managers communicate with subordinates who telework? The study, which was conducted in two Canadian federal government departments, was designed to collect information from four groups: (1) teleworkers (n=36 at Time 2); (2) managers of teleworkers (n=28 at Time 2); (3) co-workers of teleworkers (n=27 at Time 2); and (4) a control group (n=25 at Time 2). Three data collection techniques were used in this study: paper and pencil questionnaires, telephone interviews, and focus group interviews. Data were collected at three points in time: (1) two weeks prior to the start of the telework pilot; (2) three months after the telework pilot had begun; and (3) six months after the start of the telework pilot. Analysis of the data suggests that, with a few important exceptions, part-time telework arrangements have little impact on intra-organizational communication.
Findings: First: Part-time telework arrangements have little impact on intra-organizational communications — p.t. telework did not influence communication frequency, use of channels, importance placed on different modes, or number of problems reported. It did reduce ftf comm and memos typed by others, but this was seen as beneficial. Second: Supervisors had to adapt their management style for at-home workers, e.g., reduction of ftf meetings. Third: telework has potential to improve comm (25% reported improvements, due to better planning and structure).
Implications: (1) Part-time telework arrangements may be adopted with minimal communication disruption. (2) Telework arrangements can lead to a reduction in ftf interaction, and this could potentially have positive outcomes (better communication planning, less time wasted).
Citation: Duxbury, L.E. & Neufeld, D.J. (1999). An empirical evaluation of the impacts of telecommuting on intra-organizational communication. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 16(1), pp. 1-28. [link]