Telecommuting is much more common than it once was. And while there are many benefits for employees sick of the morning commute and office politics, there can be a few drawbacks as well.
Researchers at the University of Iowa and the University of Texas analyzed data from a study of American workers who put in the standard 40 hours each week. What they found was employees who worked just part of the time from home or other remote location put in an average three hours more per week, without pay, cutting into family time.
Co-author Mary Noonan says the results should cause employees to rethink the value of telecommuting.
“To think that telecommuting eases the burden may be a little simplistic,” Noonan said. “It cuts down on commuting time, and it appears to add more flexibility to the work day. But it can extend the day, and it doesn’t get you much more in terms of wage growth.”
Extra productivity doesn't equal extra compensation
That's because when you work from home, you may be more likely to keep working after normal business hours. While it might make you more productive, it won't necessarily add to your compensation.
But won't putting in extra work help you get ahead, making you more valued within the organization and increase your future earnings? The researchers said they found no evidence to support that assumption.
When they looked at the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, conducted between 1989 and 2008, they found little difference in earning growth between those who had worked remotely at some point and those who had always commuted to an office.
The big difference may lie in overtime pay. The study suggests office workers are more likely to be paid for extra hours, while telecommuters just extend their work time, taking up home and family time.
In spite of this, it's clear many employees choose to work from home if given the opportunity. The benefits are obvious -- being able to be at your desk at an early hour without having to fight morning rush hour traffic to get there is a big plus.
Noonan says some employers are beginning to offer telecommuting opportunities to attract top talent. In these cases, she says employees should carefully track their time and ask for extra compensation when they work extra hours.