Teleworking: Work-Life Balance Guaranteed? [Infographic]


Teleworking work life balance infographic
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Does teleworking result in a better work-life balance?


A recent study (Rodríguez-Modroño and López-Igual, 2021) shows teleworking doesn't necessarily improve or guarantee work-life balance. The degree to which it does depends on the environment in which telework takes place, the frequency of teleworking and the teleworkers' gender.


What is the meaning of teleworking?

Teleworking is a term used to describe work conducted from a location other than your company's office. A common location that employees have been increasingly teleworking from is home. Also known as "home office" or remote working, the teleworking work arrangement has rapidly increased, notably during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.


The availability of ICT also boosted the phenomenon, pictured as a possible solution for those seeking improved work-life balance.


What are the different types of teleworkers?

Teleworker

In their study, Rodríguez-Modroño and López-Igual (2021) present 3 distinct teleworker profiles: the regular home-based teleworkers, the highly mobile teleworkers and the occasional teleworkers. The authors found the type of teleworking to influence workload, work-family balance, and job satisfaction of remote workers.


Regular home-based teleworkers

Regular home-based teleworkers make use of information and communication technologies (ICT) several times a month to work from home and less than several times a month from other locations, except the office location.


Highly mobile teleworkers

Highly mobile teleworkers work using information and communication technologies (ICT) at least several times a week, from at least two different locations excluding the office or work daily in at least one other location.


Occasional teleworkers

Occasional teleworkers mainly work from the office. They occasionally work from home - at least several times a month - or other locations.


Telework: "The autonomy paradox"

Digital nomad

While teleworking is often described as a work arrangement bringing employees flexible working conditions and a healthier work-life balance, this is not always the case.


Indeed, increased flexibility and autonomy potentially come with an extra set of responsibilities or sources of stress, which we will further describe below. This is known as the "autonomy paradox".


Benefits of teleworking


From an employee perspective

This autonomy and flexibility have been notably facilitated by widely available information and communication technologies, enabling teams to collaborate from diverse locations and at different points in time.


Teleworkers have been proven to enjoy their personal life more, and find it easier to manage both work and family time. In addition, this autonomy and flexibility are claimed to benefit more vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, such as younger workers and women.


From a managerial perspective

From a management perspective, remote working has been increasingly accepted, as employers and managers were forced to adjust their work arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, according to the social exchange theory, teleworkers are more likely to put greater effort into their work as their autonomy increases.


In turn, remote work arrangements may benefit employers, being more cost-effective, and benefitting from higher levels of employee productivity and commitment.


Downsides of teleworking


From an employee perspective

However, depending on the teleworker's characteristics and work arrangements, these advantages turn into disadvantages.


Indeed, in some instances, the study points out the intensification of work, longer working hours and overlaps between work and home life to be the consequences of teleworking.


Among the observed disadvantages of teleworking (Rodríguez-Modroño and López-Igual, 2021):

  • Blurry boundaries between work and personal life

  • Increased workloads

  • Weakened relationships with coworkers

  • Job role ambiguity

  • Frequent distractions

  • Long working hours

  • Tight deadlines

These downsides of teleworking can result in stress, and diminish teleworkers' well-being and productivity.


From a managerial perspective

Stating the obvious, stressed, unsatisfied and unhappy employees will perform less well. This might also impact the balance within the team, as employees raise questions on the benefits of teleworking and the importance management gives to employees' work-life balance.


Teleworking, work-life balance, and gender

Employee working from home

Women teleworkers

One of the apparent disadvantages of remote work is the blurry borders between work and family life. While this can affect both men and women, the latter are more likely to be affected by this ambiguous border given their higher tendency of wearing both a work and a care hat. Consequently, in some instances, telework may amplify gender inequalities.


In addition, the study shows almost one in five women who telework at home experience feelings of insecurity in their jobs (19%). If experienced over a prolonged period of time, this feeling of insecurity can have a negative impact on women's career paths and well-being, ultimately reinforcing traditional gender roles.


Teleworking and work-life balance statistics

According to the study's results, occasional teleworkers experience higher levels of job quality. In contrast, highly mobile teleworkers have the lowest job quality and work-life balance levels.


While home-based teleworkers, women, in particular, present better results than highly mobile workers from working time quality and intensity standpoints, they face a trade-off, exchanging these upsides for lower skills, discretion, income, and career opportunities.


Home-based teleworkers

  • 60% of home-based male teleworkers work 10 hours or more a day, while 38% of home-based female teleworkers work 10 hours or more a day

  • 40.6% of home-based male teleworkers are able to take an hour off during working hours to take care of personal or family matters, compared to 36.6% of women

  • Men have higher flexibility in changing their speed or rate of work (87%) compared to women (80%)

  • Almost one in five women who telework at home perceive insecurity (19%), in contrast to one out of six men (14.6%)

Highly mobile teleworkers

  • The majority of highly mobile teleworkers are men

  • 17% of highly mobile teleworkers never or rarely have time to complete their work, compared to 10% of home-based teleworkers

  • Male highly mobile teleworkers have the largest proportion of long working days (10+ hours/day)

  • Male highly mobile teleworkers have the largest proportion of long working hours (48+ hours/week)

Teleworking arrangements: advice to management and employers

Manager meeting employees

The results of this study by Rodríguez-Modroño and López-Igual (2021) call for changes in legislation and regulatory frameworks for remote workers. More specifically, the different types of teleworking need to be taken into account, in addition to the gender of teleworkers, to avoid exacerbating inequalities in and outside the workplace.

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