The Telecommuting Trap

Researchers believe telecommuters are working longer than a typical workday.

Illustration telecommuting

Telecommuting, a popular practice thought to free up time for busy nine-to-fivers, may wind up encouraging longer work hours, according to a new study published in Monthly Labor Review.

Each week, telecommuters who split time between home and office put in five to seven more hours than their counterparts who work only at the office. Researchers believe telecommuters are working longer than a typical workday.

“We still have a face-time culture in most workplaces,” says study coauthor Jennifer Glass, PhD, of the University of Texas at Austin, and work done at home often is chalked up to unpaid overtime. Plus, with email and instant messaging, telecommuters are more likely to work on sick or vacation days.

Telecommuting is steadily growing in popularity: 24 percent of employed Americans report that they work from home at least a few hours a week. And the practice certainly has its advantages: It has been found to boost productivity, decrease absenteeism and increase worker retention.

To maintain good boundaries between work and home, follow a few simple rules: After work, power down your smartphone or disable access to your work email, resist logging back on to do “just one quick thing,” and avoid your home office until the next morning. Talk regularly with your manager about your workload and how to prioritize your to-do list. Open communication will bring more visibility to the hours you put in — and ease your anxiety about taking off nights and weekends.


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