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Telecommuting parents have little chance to escape the messy world of parenting, a new study suggests.
If you’re considering telecommuting to salve your stress from the constant juggling of work and family, think again.
A new study shows that “telework” takes a toll on the very employees who might desire this option most — those who feel especially torn between job responsibilities and family. For these people, the more hours spent working at home, the higher the risk of burnout, according to the report, published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.
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."
Golden surveyed 316 employees from a large computer company that allows workers to telecommute and to work with a flexible time schedules.
To ferret out the level of job/family conflict, Golden asked employees to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how strongly they agreed with statements such as, “My work keeps me from my family activities more than I would like,” “Due to pressures at work, sometimes when I am at home I am too stressed to do the things I enjoy,” “The time I spend on family responsibilities often interferes with my work responsibilities,” and “ Because I am often stressed from family responsibilities, I have a hard time concentrating on my work.”
Golden also surveyed the employees about their level of exhaustion. Study volunteers were asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 how strongly they agreed with statements such as, “I feel emotionally drained by my work.”
Telecommuting was a boon to workers who felt little or no conflict between work and family. But those who were the most torn between home and work responsibilities showed increasing levels of exhaustion as hours spent teleworking rose.
Still, Golden said, even among those who feel strong conflict, telecommuting can be a good choice if it’s done right. That means having clear boundaries, both mental and physical — such as a door to one’s home office — between work and family.
“Telework, if it’s done well, can be very beneficial,” he added. “You save time commuting. You don’t have to deal with the stress of being delayed on your way to work because of traffic or weather. You have the comfort of working where you want to. But you have to think ahead of time about what might impact you if you’re working from home.”