Citation
Telecommuter perceptions of role, status, and/or promotability shift among professional relationships

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Title:
Telecommuter perceptions of role, status, and/or promotability shift among professional relationships
Creator:
Rutsch, Maximiliano Eduardo
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
v, 102 leaves : illustrations, form ; 29 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Telecommuting ( lcsh )
Telecommuting ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 95-102).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Communication and Theater.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Maximiliano Eduardo Rutsch.

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Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
37306899 ( OCLC )
ocm37306899
Classification:
LD1190.L48 1996m .R88 ( lcc )

Full Text
TELECOMMUTER PERCEPTIONS OF ROLE, STATUS, AND/OR
PROMOTABILITY SHIFT AMONG PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS
by
Maximiliano Eduardo Rutsch
B.A., University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, 1991
A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Communication and Theater
1996


1996 by Maximiliano Eduardo Rutsch
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Maximiliano Eduardo Rutsch
has been approved
by


Rutsch, Maximiliano Eduardo (M.A., Communication and Theatre)
Telecommuter Perceptions of Role, Status, and/or Promotability Shift Among Professional
Relationships
Thesis directed by Professor Benita Dilley
ABSTRACT
This research examined the perceptions telecommuters have about the way telecommuting has
resulted in a perceived shift of their roles, status, and promotability among their professional
relationships.
This research was a qualitative, ethnographic, exploratory study of cross-sectional-survey
design. In understanding social phenomena from the actors perspective, in-depth, semi-structured,
ethnographic interviews were conducted with participants to assess their perceptions concerning
the major research question.
The majority of telecommuters interviewed felt that their role, status, and promotability did
not shift as a result of telecommuting. Among those that experienced shift, role shifted most often,
with promotability and status following respectively.
Respondents felt that being away from the organization on a regular basis decreased their
exposure to co-workers and superiors, which caused their role within the department/organization
to change, and also caused them to feel ineligible for promotion. Among those perceiving status
shift, increased productivity which telecommuting allows was most often responsible for that shift.
The clearest finding of the study was that due to the office distractions which telecommuting
avoids, telecommuters productivity increases when compared to in-office productivity.
This study noted a significant discrepancy among the responses provided by government
telecommuters, and private sector telecommuters. Government telecommuters seemed to be better
acclimated to telecommuting, reporting fewer problems, and seemed to encounter less resistance
from supervisors concerning telecommuting. This discrepancy was attributed to government
workers' more enlightened view of telecommuting. Government telecommuters reported official
telecommuting pilot programs, and informational telecommuting meetings often. This study views
IV


such official, organized activities as responsible for creating a better educated, and better
acclimated telecommuting work force, as well as an office-based work staff which was better
educated and acclimated to telecommuting than were private sector respondents'
departments/organizations. The clearer understanding of telecommuting possessed by government
employees prevented problems, and perceptions of role, status, and promotability shift.
Every respondent indicated that they would like to continue telecommuting in the future.
Limitations of the study are discussed and suggestions for future research are presented.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
publication.
Signed
v


DEDICATION
To my parents, without whose help, this would not have been.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Many thanks to my thesis committee for their help on this project. Special thanks to BenitaDilley
Ph.D. for her help on this project, and my graduate career, and to Dennis Wignall Ph.D. for
donating his time and expertise.


CONTENTS
CHARTS.............................................................................xi
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.................................................................1
General Description of the Area of Concern...............................1
Problem to be Studied....................................................1
Purpose of the Research..................................................2
Significance of the Problem..............................................3
Rationale................................................................4
Major Research Question..................................................4
2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE.........................................................5
Historical Background....................................................5
Theory Relevant to the Major Research Question...........................5
Perception...........................................................5
Role.................................................................6
Personal Roles of Telecommuters......................................7
Organizational Roles of Telecommuters................................7
Role Ambiguity.......................................................8
Current Literature......................................................10
Organizational Reasons for Implementing a Telecommuting Program.....10
Personal/Individual Reasons for Participating in a Telecommuting Program.... 13
Problems with Employee Integration..................................15
viii


Supervisory/Subordinate Relationship Change.............................16
Alteration of Measuring Performance.....................................16
Choosing to Telecommute.................................................17
Employee Satisfaction...................................................18
Corporate Commitment to Telecommuting...................................19
3. METHODOLOGY......................................................................20
Restatement of Major Research Question......................................20
General Characteristics of the Study Population.............................20
Specific Characteristics of the Study Population............................21
Definitions of Terms and Concepts...........................................21
Research Design.............................................................25
Pre-testing the Data Collection Instrument..................................26
Sampling Design and Procedures..............................................26
Data Collection Instrument..................................................27
Instruments, Tools for Measuring Variables..................................29
Telecommuter Survey Questions...............................................29
Telecommuter Perception Interview Questions.................................29
Administration of the Data Collection Instrument............................31
Data Processing Procedures..................................................32
Data Analysis Procedures....................................................40
Reliability and Validity....................................................40
Reliability.............................................................40
Internal Validity.......................................................41
External Validity.......................................................42
ix


Acknowledgment of Biases
42
Protection of Human Subjects............................................43
4. RESULTS.....................................................................44
Role....................................................................46
Status..................................................................46
Promotability...........................................................47
Lettered Code Frequency.................................................61
5. DISCUSSION..................................................................73
Role....................................................................73
Status..................................................................76
Promotability...........................................................78
Summary of Role, Status, and Promotability..............................81
Frequency of Discussed Phenomena........................................82
Discussion of Code Frequency for all Study Participants.................82
Comparison of Code Frequency for Government and Private Sector
Respondents.............................................................88
Limitations of the Study................................................90
Suggestions for Future Research.........................................91
Summary.................................................................92
APPENDX A Interview Schedule Cover Sheet........................................94
BIBLIOGRAPHY....................................................................95
x


FIGURES
Chart
3.1 Lettered Codes by Category: Major Research Question..........................34
3.2 Lettered Codes by Category: Busy Office......................................34
3.3 Lettered Codes by Category: Interaction.....................................35
3.4 Lettered Codes by Category: What Telecommuters Think........................36
3.5 Lettered Codes by Category: What Telecommuting does.........................37
3.6 Lettered Codes by Category: Telecommuter Preparedness........................37
3.7 Lettered Codes by Category: Communication....................................38
3.8 Lettered Codes by Category: Telecommuting is, is not.........................38
3.9 Lettered Codes by Category: Other............................................39
4.1 Responses to the Major Research Question.....................................45
4.2 Responses to the Major Research Question with Brief Explanations.............48
4.3 Responses to the Major Research Question for all Government Offices..........52
4.4 Responses to the Major Research Question for the City and County of Denver...53
4.5 Responses to the Major Research Question for a Federal Government Office.....54
4.6 Responses to the Major Research Question for all Private Organizations.......55
4.7 Responses to the Major Research Question for Private Organization A..........56
4.8 Responses to the Major Research Question for Private Organization B..........57
4.9 Responses to the Major Research Question for Other Private Organizations (not including
A, or B).....................................................................58
4.10 Responses to the Major Research Question for All Male Respondents............59
4.11 Responses to the Major Research Question for All Female Respondents..........60
xi


4.12 Lettered Code Frequency for all Study Participants...............................62
4.13 Lettered Code Frequency for all Government Offices......................63
4.14 Lettered Code Frequency for the City and County of Denver......................64
4.15 Lettered Code Frequency for a Federal Government Agency.........................65
4.16 Lettered Code Frequency for all Private Organizations...........................66
4.17 Lettered Code Frequency for Private Organization A......................67
4.18 Lettered Code Frequency for Private Organization B......................68
4.19 Lettered Code Frequency for Other Private Organizations (not including A, or B).69
4.20 Lettered Code Frequency for all Male Respondents................................70
4.21 Lettered Code Frequency for all Female Respondents..............................71
xii


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
General Description of the Area of Concern
Telecommuting, the use of a home computer attached to a modem, or the use of other
telecommunications devices in order to conduct work from a non-office-based location, began as a way
to comply with U.S. government mandates for large corporations to cut down on pollution emissions
for employees (commuters), as well as a way to save fuel, and reduce traffic congestion (Jacobs, Van
Sell 18; Maynard 61; Polsky 28; Prystash 95). During this process, organizations as well as
telecommuting employees have discovered and enjoyed advantages in addition to those designed to
protect the environment (Chaudron 1; Handy, Mokhtarian 100; Jacobs, Van Sell 18; Prystash 95).
Now, due to advances, and declining prices in computer technology making this alternative work-style
more feasible, millions of workers across America report to work over phone or ISDN (integrated
services digital network) lines (Baig 106; Chaudron 1; Filipczak 54; Filipczak (2) 56; Ford,
McLaughlin 66; McQuarrie 79; Moskowitz 84; Nigro 52; Prystash 95).
As the technology on which telecommuting depends evolves quickly, so does the nature of
telecommuting. Though these technological changes may appear great, their resultant effect on
telecommuting is rarely as grand, though significant. Because of these changes, telecommuting as an
organizational process may be viewed as being a newer or more recent work-style change than it
actually is. This new work-style is currently attracting much attention in the business sector of
America, and social scientists have reacted (Handy, Mokhtarian 100). There has been abundant
scholarly research on computer mediated communication (CMC), which shares some characteristics
with telecommuting, however, the focal point of the majority of CMC research, is on communication
which takes place among organizational members while within the organizations buildings, and not
from a non-office based location, as with telecommuting.
Problem to be Studied
Throughout telecommutings history, articles have been written and studies conducted that note the
many advantages of telecommuting both for the organization and for the individual worker (Canadian
Manager 19; Chaudron 1; Hartman, Stoner, Arora 35; Jacobs, Van Sell 18; McQuarrie 81; Moskowitz
1


84; Nigro 52; Prystash; Steve 38). In addition, these reports dutifully note the relatively few
accompanying disadvantages of telecommuting, as well as proposing how to select the correct
positions, managers, employees, equipment, and philosophy to successfully integrate this work method
into the existing organization (Alvi, McIntyre 23; Canadian Manager 19; Filipczak 61; Hecquet;
Jacobs, Van Sell 18; Kroll 19; Nigro 52; Prystash; Steve 36). Other studies have surveyed
telecommuters, as well as managers of telecommuters, to glean responses concerning their
personal/organizational views on telecommuting (Yap,Tng).
What has not been studied sufficiently however, are the ways telecommuting has resulted in a
perceived shift or modification of their status, role, or promotability, among their professional
relationships. Articles have focused on telecommuter and managerial feelings about the reasons for
undertaking a telecommuting program, personal/organizational benefits derived,
personal/organizational disadvantages, and concerns for operating within a telecommuting program
(Alvi, McIntyre; Atkinson; Barnes, K.; Canadian Manager. Chaudron; Currid; Filipczak; Ford, Butts;
Ford, McLaughlin; Guiley; Hartman, Stoner, Arora; Hecquet; Jacobs, Van Sell; Kroll; Moskowitz;
Murphey; Nigro; Olson, Polsky; Primps; Prystash; Steve; Young). However, sufficient research has
not been conducted on telecommuter perceptions concerning career or job standing/shift as a result of
telecommuting.
Purpose of the Research
This research more accurately identifies telecommuter perceptions concerning in what way their
telecommuting has resulted in a perceived shift or modification of their status, role, or promotability in
their professional relationships. Through this clearer understanding of the concerns and views of
telecommuters, researchers may formulate a more accurate context from which to conduct further
research on telecommuters (Barnes, K. 9; Filipczak (2) 96; Kelly 6; Kroll 18; Mannering, Mokhtarian
49; Maynard 61; Polsky 28; Rittershaus 73).
While telecommuting has existed in its current form for twenty years, nearly all of the research
covering this work-style has focused on the associated processes and outcomes for both the
telecommuter and organization. What has not been studied sufficiently are the personal, departmental,
organizational, and/or larger scale effects of the perceptions telecommuters have of their changing
presence in the workplace.
2


Significance of the Problem
This investigation of telecommuting has important implications for American business.
Telecommuting has become pervasive (Jacobs, Van Sell 18; Nigro 52) and the study and understanding
of it and its effects is necessary and important due to the number of people involved, the wide scope of
the organizations employing it, and the foundation it may provide for future at-home, or alternative
work-styles. Both large and small organizations now employ telecommuters, making this work-style a
familiar one, with millions of participants across the country (Alvi, McIntyre 22; Baig 104; Garcia 47;
Guiley 27; Hecquet; Jacobs, Van Sell 18; Kelly 2; Kroll 20; Maynard 61; Nigro 52; Prystash 95).
Large corporations have traditionally accepted change, especially technological change, at a
slower rate per employee than smaller businesses. While smaller businesses may find more difficulty
in allocating funds for new computers, for example, the culture of smaller organizations generally
allows for a faster integration of new advances in technology (Nigro 52; Prystash 95; Tomaskovic-
Devey, Risman 368-369). What has occurred has been a widespread acceptance of
telecommunications services and products, including but not limited to: the modem, videoconferencing
services, ISDN links, local and wide area networks (LAN, WAN) and others (Nigro 52; Mokhtarian,
Salomon 749; Prystash 95). These services and products allow synchronous or asynchronous
communication by transmission of data, video signals, and/or audio signals among persons,
departments, or organizations throughout the country or world. This has brought acceptance and use of
these technologies to organizations across America both large and small. Telecommuting no longer
represents the technological leap which garnered it so much attention in earlier years. Now, the
technology required for employees to telecommute is commonplace in American business, and is even
commonplace in an increasing percentage of American households (Prystash 95,97). This is a new way
of conducting business, and is becoming permanent for certain tasks and/or positions.
Large organizations are using telecommuters as a way to increase productivity, retain employees,
save money, attract new employees, and other reasons (Prystash 95,96). Small organizations employ
telecommuting for those reasons, and for the ability it provides individual workers to perform from a
variety of settings or places which often accompany the varied duties of small business operators. The
telecommuting trend, though not growing as rapidly as predicted, continues to grow (Filipczak (2) 96;
Mannering, Mokhtarian 49; Maynard 61). Also, that growth appears to increase each year (Barnes, K.
9; Kelly 6; Kroll 18; Nigro 52; Polsky 28; Rittershaus 73).
3


Rationale
Telecommuting represents a permanent work-style in American business, and it is imperative that
research continues in a competent manner which identifies and analyzes important areas of concern for
both telecommuting individuals, and organizations which use, or plan to employ telecommuting. By
doing so, the knowledge base of this work-style continues to grow, providing more, and more accurate
understanding of the components involved, deepening the context from which much if not all of this
research is constructed.
In order to conduct research on the many facets of this work-style, a clearer understanding of how
telecommuters view their own existence as a worker, as well as their perceptions of telecommuting in
other arenas, must be gained. The study of certain, specific, telecommuter perceptions has been, and is
still currently being researched, while the study of telecommuter perceptions focusing on their role and
existence in the workplace however, requires further study. With sufficient knowledge of
telecommuters views of these topics, the social science community will formulate an adequate
contextual base from which to branch out and more fully explore telecommuting.
This qualitative study focuses on this aspect of telecommuters and begins to provide such
knowledge, while having benefited from a substantial base of previous research on other aspects of
telecommuting. This study attempts to identify perceptions concerning change among telecommuters,
regardless of whether or not the change actually exists. Taylor and Bogdan state that the important
reality is what people perceive it to be (2).
To better understand telecommuters perceptions is to allow for study of telecommuter related
phenomena, for example, the relationship between telecommutings possible effect of increased
communication of higher quality leading to a decrease in role ambiguity is indeed an ironic and
interesting point for possible further study. This relationship highlights the need to understand
telecommuter perceptions of such role ambiguity and/or conflict. If we are to sufficiently understand
telecommuters and their increasing role in this countrys workforce, we must understand their
perceptions concerning these issues.
Major Research Question
For this research, the major research question is: What perceptions do telecommuters have about
the way telecommuting has resulted in a perceived shift of their roles, status, and promotability among
their professional relationships?
4


CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Historical Background
While much of the telecommuting work-style seems new, it is only the technology used to
complete the work and communicate with the main office that is attributable to recent developments.
Since the beginning of humankind, people have worked in or within a few hundred yards of their home,
and it is only with the start of the industrial revolution that we begin to see workers reporting, or
commuting to a central work location for their daily duties (Alvi, McIntyre 24; Gray, Hodson, Gordon
17; McQuarrie 79).
Telecommuting then, simply provides a way for workers who do not necessarily need to report to a
central work location to be employed by organizations where commuting is a must for many or most
organizational members. Telecommuting provides a link between the cottage industry, and the post
industrial revolution business world (McQuarrie 79).
Theory Relevant to the Major Research Question
Perception
In order to fully understand that nature of this research, it is important to understand perceptions as
they relate to organizational workers. In his study of the relationship between employee perceptions
about job characteristics and job satisfaction, Berg concludes that It is vital that general managers and
department heads recognize the importance of what their employees perceive (282). Perception is
what provides workers and indeed all people, with the frame of reference, or context, from which they
operate, make decisions, and act.
As perception is the process through which we select, organize, and interpret information brought
to us by our senses in order to understand the world around us, people do not know the world around
them (Baron, Greenberg 116), but rather see it from their own frame of mind. Each persons reality
is built on what they perceive. It is that reality in which a person lives, and it is in those lives that a
5


person creates their interactive conduit with society and the world. How a person interacts is a result of
what they perceive.
This project studied telecommuters perceptions of changes that may have taken place in a
telecommuters work environment as a result of telecommuting. One could simply ask telecommuters
supervisors or co-workers whether or not they have acted differently toward the telecommuter as a
result of the telecommuting, but such investigation would not have been fruitful for this study.
Different people perceive things differently. Even rank in on organization affects perception, as
Keeton and Mengistu found that managers at different levels in an organization have different
perspectives concerning that organization, and therefore hold somewhat different views of the
organizations culture (211). By extension, one might consider that those aspects which affect
organizational culture, which are also affected by an employee telecommuting (absence from the office,
less informal communication with superiors and co-workers, less team-spirit, etc.), will be perceived
differently by a telecommuters manager and the telecommuter.
As one acts as a result of the context within which they live, which was created by perception,
obtaining a sense of a workers perceptions leads to further understanding of their actions, methods,
and /or motives. T. Berg concurs but for management, what an employee perceives is all important
(282). Through understanding perceptions, we may eventually be able to predict behavior, or whether
or not a person is more or less suited to the telecommuting work arrangement (Baron, Greenberg 116).
Role
The changes in work-life that an employee experiences which may result from telecommuting are
varied. From reduced stress due to lack of commute to weight gained due to proximity to the
refrigerator while working at home, telecommutings effects are unpredictable. Of interest to this
researcher however, is the shift or modification in status, and role, that the telecommuter may
experience in their at work peer group, department, or organization. By role, this study refers to the
part one plays in the overall group (organizational) structure...the typical behaviors that characterize a
person in a social context (Baron, Greenberg 267).
As telecommuting methodically removes a worker from the group structure in which s/he plays a
role, that role may be theorized to change as a result of the telecommuting activity. Since work
groups are comprised of people who play different roles in a social structure (Baron, Greenberg 268), it
is natural to speculate as to the effects of removing a group member either permanently, or short-term
methodically, as in the case of a telecommuter. Characteristics of these organizations and groups (in
which a person plays several roles) affect the physical and emotional state of the person, and are major
6


determinants of his behavior (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek 11). As these characteristics are major
influences of behavior, we can expect behavior to change as a result of the changes which
telecommuting brings.
In a general sense, telecommuters, and indeed all workers, play various roles in and out of the
organization in which they work. The following sections will distinguish between organizational and
personal roles of telecommuters.
Personal Roles of Telecommuters
Due to the nature of the telecommuting work-style, telecommuters may experience inter-, and
intra-role conflict. While working at home, telecommuters must meet the demands the organization
places on them for work quality and quantity. The telecommuter may also fall victim to the demands of
family members who view the presence of a family member as an opportunity to conduct personal
relations. In this sense, the telecommuter is experiencing intra-role conflict in that they are
experiencing role expectations from both the organization, and from family members.
To the extent that the telecommuter believes and personally feels that s/he indeed must attempt to
fill both these roles, they are also experiencing inter-role conflict. The expectations of the
telecommuter from work and family are the external pressures necessary for intra-role conflict, while
the internal expectations of the telecommuter to be a good worker and family member constitute the
characteristics of inter-role conflict (Baron, Greenberg 269).
Organizational Roles of Telecommuters
All members of an organization are expected to perform certain duties, in a certain manner. These
expectations to perform according to ones role are communicated in many ways: sometimes directly,
as when a supervisor instructs a subordinate in the requirements of his job; sometimes indirectly, as
when a colleague expresses admiration or disappointment in some behavior (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn,
Snoek 15). These communicated expectations are labeled the sew/ role (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek
15). This sent role is what a telecommuters co-workers/supervisors expect, however, it may not be
what the telecommuter understands. As with all perception, as noted above, deviations may occur. The
role that the telecommuter perceives his/her co-workers/supervisors as desiring they fulfill, is a
received role (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek 16). Kahn et. al. note this relationship: It is the sent role
by means of which the organization communicates to the person the dos and donts associated with his
office. The received role, however, is the immediate influence on his behavior and the immediate
source of his motivation to role performance (16).
7


As a telecommuters personal roles may interfere with their organizational roles, especially when
working in the home, sent role conflict refers to the simultaneous occurrence of two (or more) sets of
pressures such that compliance with one would make more difficult compliance with the other (Kahn,
Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek 19). These opposing forces contain the potential to create conflict in the
telecommuter, and create perceptions concerning such sent roles, and/or role senders, which this study
investigates.
As a telecommuters role senders see that s/he spends less time in the office, they might alter their
sent roles, creating confusion for the telecommuter. The telecommuter may be seen as unreliable for
duties which must be completed in-office on a daily basis, and the telecommuter is dismissed of this
daily task. Suddenly, what was once expected of them seems to not be so important, and little or no
explanation was given for the change. To the extent that the sent role changes, or is modified, and
more importantly, to the extent that the received role is altered, this will cause role ambiguity for the
telecommuter (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek 22). Role ambiguity is a direct function of the discrepancy
between the information available to the person and that which is required for adequate performance of
his role (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek 73). Such a situation may easily occur when a telecommuters
manager fails to prepare him/herself for the management style changes that telecommuting requires.
Changes in perceived role sent from supervisors and/or co-workers strongly influence a workers
psychological state, as Kahn et. al. note: When pressures from associates are especially strong and
directed toward changes in the behavior of the focal person...the experience is apt to be fraught with
conflict and ambiguity and to evoke responses of tension, anger, or indecision (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn,
Snoek 28). The result of such ambiguity is apt to be stressful for almost anyone who might occupy
that position (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek 22). Kahn et. al. continue: We expect also that the greater
the experienced ambiguity, the more the person experiences tension and anxiety (Kahn,Wolfe, Quinn,
Snoek 24).
Role Ambiguity
As the causes of role ambiguity are crucial to understand, it is important also to recognize the
factors that are the source of role ambiguity, and how these dynamics interact with telecommuting.
Kahn et. al. identify three factors as determinants of role ambiguity, and Eisenbergs premise of
strategic ambiguity also has an important impact in the creation and support of role ambiguity. Kahn,
Wolfe, Quinn, and Snoek proffer that organizational complexity, organizational change, and
managerial philosophy, each contribute to role ambiguity (75). These three influences may act
independently, or concurrently.
8


Modem organizations have grown to the point where no one person clearly can understand at any
given moment, more than a small bit of that which is to be known about (Kahn, Wolfe, Quinn, Snoek
75). One can imagine then, that as the organization now moves into the homes of telecommuters,
further decentralizing operations, that such confusion and lack of comprehension would only increase.
As a result of telecommuting, organizations become more complex. As organizations are sufficiently
complex as to prohibit a thorough understanding of all processes at once, organizational change further
complicates any understanding one may have of an organizations workings. What is understood is apt
to change at any time, any number of times. Telecommuting is an example of such change.
Managerial philosophy impacts role ambiguity as well. Supervisors and managers create, perceive,
or possess work and organizational life expectations of workers, which will become sent roles. These
roles must be sent clearly if they are to be followed, acknowledging that received roles are many times
distinct from those sent. The extent to which management encourages and participates in open, clear
communication with subordinates (telecommuters) is essential to the clear perception and
understanding of sent roles. If managerial communication is less than adequate, received roles will
differ significantly from sent roles, displeasing management, creating problems for the worker, leading
to role ambiguity and its affiliated psychological difficulties.
Here, Eisenbergs strategic ambiguity has a direct relationship in producing and/or sustaining
role ambiguity. As telecommuting is a work-style that many organizations are addressing for the first
time, managers may take a strategically ambiguous approach in managing telecommuters, to decrease
risk to their professional, and personal character (Eisenberg 235). Eisenberg proposes that people may
be intentionally ambiguous in their communication with others, for a variety of purposes, to achieve a
variety of goals (230). In the organizational context from which this research was conducted, strategic
ambiguity would allow managers to control the conditions of a telecommuting program (thus
telecommuters), using vague guidelines, and less than clear policies. As many of these managers are
dealing with telecommuting workers for the first time, they would likely be hesitant to set rigid
protocol, for fear that these standards would appear to have been created by someone with a poor grasp
of the concept, once they and their subordinates had experience with this work-style.
For someone with high credibility, like managers, clarity is risky (Eisenberg 235). With a desire to
avoid confining, and binding statements or formal positions, a manager may choose to be broad, and
less than specific in detailing eligibility, production, scheduling, and interaction criteria for
telecommuters. Such strategic ambiguity is certain to encourage role ambiguity in a telecommuter due
to a lack of defined standards, acceptable protocol, and easily verified measurement criteria. Eisenberg
notes this, stating, The use of strategic ambiguity complicates the task of interpretation for the
9


receiver (236). Telecommuters will not know what is considered acceptable performance, and
acceptable behavior, because their manager, or organization, is reluctant to provide specifics.
Eisenberg also states that such indirect communication serves as a useful compromise for managers,
between being totally silent on these issues, and restrictively specific (236).
This phenomenon seems to be at home in the telecommuting setting, as this work-styles newness
prevents many managers from being experts on its most productive implementation strategies, as well
as the phenomenons being especially common in significant relationships wherein dependency needs
and monetary problems are discussed; this seems clearly applicable to superior-subordinate dyads
(Eisenberg 236). An organizations formal position on telecommuting is an ideal place to find less than
concrete standards. Strategic ambiguity complicates the sense making responsibilities of the
receiver, allowing managers to both reveal and conceal (Eisenberg 236). By doing so,
telecommuters receive less than specific guidelines concerning the organizations, and the departments
position, and criteria, on telecommuting workers. The telecommuters role is not clear to anyone in the
organization, and the telecommuter experiences role ambiguity as a result.
Managerial philosophy, and strategic ambiguity affect telecommuting perhaps more than
organizational complexity and change, due to their direct proximity with the management framework.
Many telecommuting articles document the need for a shift in management style, especially in the
amount, and type of communication between managers and their telecommuters (Mvi, McIntyre 23;
Canadian Manager 19; Guiley 27; Hecquet; Kroll 19). Clear, and explicit communication among
managers and telecommuters would provide the detail necessary to create a commonly shared, clearly
pictured, and clearly transmitted context of the organizational telecommuter.
Current Literature
While literature on telecommuting appears almost daily as anecdotal stories or experiences of
telecommuters, managers, or human resource managers printed in trade or general interest magazines,
genuine scholarly research on telecommuting is not all-encompassing of the issue.
Of the research that has been conducted, certain aspects on telecommuting are consistently studied.
These aspects are the most often mentioned in general interest magazines, trade magazines and
scholarly journals, and are mentioned below.
Organizational Reasons for Implementing a Telecommuting Program
For a variety of reasons, organizations large and small consider or implement telecommuting
programs.
10


Decreased Operating Costs. Decreased operating costs are an attractive incentive for employers to
create a telecommuting program (Alvi, McIntyre 22; Atkinson 105; Chaudron 1; Ford, McLaughlin 69;
Handy, Mokhtarian 100; Jacobs, Van Sell 19; Moskowitz 85; Nigro 52; Polsky 28; Prystash 96).
Office Space. With more employees working at home, the need for office space decreases.
Though every telecommuter needs a desk, cubicle, or office for the days when s/he works in the
organizations buildings, this space can be coordinated and shared with other telecommuters. In this
manner, excess space no longer needs to be leased, or if owned, it may be rented or sold (Atkinson 105;
Baig 104; Chaudron 1; Currid 64; Filipczak 54; Ford, McLaughlin 70; Kelly 3; Nigro 53; Polsky 28;
Steve 38).
Organization/Telecommuter Relationship. With the ability to work from home full time, many
telecommuters are changing the nature of their relationship with their employer. In an agreement
among the employer and employee, many organizations are firing their telecommuters only to hire
them back as independent contractors. Such a practice allows the organization to save money that
would otherwise go toward the telecommuters benefit package, employee compensation insurance, and
other employee associated costs. In this manner, the telecommuter is now free to solicit work from
other organizations, choosing among the most lucrative offers.
Reduction in turnover. Telecommuters generally value the flexibility offered by their employer,
find their work more interesting/rewarding, and realize a reduction in stressful factors normally
associated with being completely office-based (Atkinson 106; Chaudron 1; Guiley 28; Jacobs, Van Sell
19; Kelly 3; Nigro 53; Polsky 28; Steve 38; Young 20). These factors make a career that includes
telecommuting attractive yet currently still rare enough that telecommuting workers choose not to jump
organizations often. Through this retention, organizations reduce the large costs associated with
replacing a worker, especially if that worker was of substantial ability or status within the organization.
Improved Communication Among Telecommuters and Workers/Managers in Office.
Hesitation usually surrounds an employee telecommuting due to the predicted lack or lessening of
communication among the telecommuter and office workers. If telecommuting is to succeed,
telecommuters and management must have sufficient, rich communication (Filipczak (2) 56; Jacobs,
Van Sell 21; Murphey 62; Nigro 56). The predicted lack of communication causes concern because
workers fear they will no longer have access to the skills, talents, and information that the telecommuter
possesses.
However, this is not the case. Caudron (40), and Hartman, Stoner, Arora (36), cite examples of
communication in a telecommuters department improving due to the consistency with which the
11


telecommuter can be reached, the prioritizing of work related messages, and the filtering of non-
important messages. Three months into the arrangement, Hutchinson has discovered that the
employee actually is easier to reach and that his work has improved (Caudron 46).
Telecommuters are usually able to follow a work pattern better at home than in the office due to
fewer disruptions (formal and informal). Telecommuters seem to be more likely to be at their
workstation during announced hours of work, providing a better chance that the telecommuter will be
able to answer questions, discuss topics, etc. that his/her co-workers telephone in.
Telecommuters report that a larger percentage of conversations with co-workers are work related
compared to conversations conducted during office-based work (Hartman, Stoner, Arora 36).
Telecommuters and organizations report a reduction of non-productive (non-organizational goal
centered) exchanges compared with workers in the office. These consequences are due to the removal
of the telecommuter from the office. The absence of the telecommuter from the office acts as a filter of
non-work related conversations.
Increased Worker Productivity. When selected and trained properly, a telecommuter produces
more, at a lower cost for the organization compared to office-based workers (Atkinson 105; Chaudron
1; Currid 64; Filipczak 55; Filipczak (2) 56; Ford, McLaughlin 67; Guiley 27; Hecquet; Jacobs, Van
Sell 19; Kelly 3; Maynard 61; Moskowitz 85; Nigro 54; Polsky 28; Steve 38). Telecommuters are
shown to produce approximately 20% to 30% more in quantifiable results (Weiss 51). Rathbone
reports this figure to be an average between 15% and 20% (41), and Hartman, Stoner, Arora report that
84% of telecommuters report higher productivity (36).
Numerous studies verify a telecommuters higher productivity, with some showing impressive,
though admittedly rare improvements. Storage Tek, in Boulder, CO for example, cited a 144%
increase in productivity among telecommuting engineers and other employees (Weiss 51). Bell
Atlantic found 27% of managers involved in a study ending in 1990 had higher levels of productivity
than prior to telecommuting, with some as high as a 200% increase, and others showing a 20%
reduction in time to task completion (Weiss 51).
Improved Management Skills. The skills, techniques, and processes required to manage home
workers are vastly different than those to manage office-based workers. Homeworking requires a new
perspective by managers, supervising an employee who can be easily observed seems quite different
than supervising one who may be hundreds of miles away (Ford, Butts 20). Telecommuting is an
effective tool enabling managers to break their firm hold or view that managing entails viewing
(Chaudron 6; Steve 38). Suzan Falzon, a CSC consultant concludes Theres less supervision of the
12


content of the work, more supervision of a persons overall performance and career (Stewart 54). The
manager then becomes more effective and adaptable once s/he accomplishes this.
Managing home workers fosters a manage by results perspective. This focus on results
coincides well with the principles of goal setting, and the popular Management by Objectives (MBO)
style.
Among the many positive changes a manager may undergo in supervising telecommuters, another
is confidence. You have to be secure in your management skills, have faith in your employees, and
not decrease your expectations (Caudron 47). So pervasive is the view that improved management
results from employing telecommuters that the ITE Journal even recognized this in an article entitled
Telecommuting in the United States. In it, Rathbone notes: The (telecommuting) projects also have
proved beneficial to the organizations because of...the improved management techniques that
telecommuting fosters (40).
Able to Hire Otherwise Non-Hirable Due to Relocation and/or Disability. Utilizing telecommuting
employees enables an organization to hire valuable/desirable persons who would otherwise be unlikely
candidates for employment due to their unwillingness to relocate to a corporate headquarters location,
or because of a disability which makes commuting to work daily, and functioning in a traditional office
setting, difficult or impossible (Ford, McLaughlin 69; Handy, Mokhtarian 100; Jacobs, Van Sell 18;
Prystash 96; Steve 38).
An organization may now have its pick from a larger pool of potential workers. To the extent that
the potential employee is physically distanced from a metropolitan area, and therefore living in a
location where the standard of living may require less money to maintain, an organization may be able
to further save resources in offering a salary lower than that which it must offer in a metropolitan area
to fare competitively.
Personal/Individual Reasons for Participating in a Telecommuting Program
As with the organization which is considering implementing a telecommuting program, there are
many reasons for individuals to be attracted to the telecommuting work-style. These are mentioned
below:
Work Time. By home working, telecommuters do not have to adhere to schedules imposed by the
organization as strictly as do office-based workers. Home workers have the ability to schedule their
work time around family commitments, times of the day when they feel most productive, and can
13


modify their working schedule every day, hour, or as necessary (Alvi, McIntyre 22; Filipczak 54; Ford,
Butts 20; Jacobs, Van Sell 19; Moskowitz 85; Nigro 54; Polsky 28).
A related advantage for the home worker dealing with time is the fact that there is no time lost
physically commuting (Handy, Mokhtarian 100). With commutes of 45 minutes or more each way
common, and 1 hour commutes not uncommon in metropolitan areas, telecommuters are able to save
1.5 hours every day in an average situation. Saved time may be either devoted to work time, producing
more, or it may be devoted to ones family, or personal time. Many workers also mention that
telecommuting leaves them with more energy for the business day compared to when they commuted to
work. Apparently, the commute and its tensions require much energy of the average commuter. That
energy is not expelled with the telecommuter, and can be put into work filipczak 54).
Economical. Telecommuting provides a way for workers to save money that would normally be
spent when working in a normal office-based setting (Moskowitz 85).
Transportation. Money savings to the telecommuter are numerous and significant. Gasoline,
vehicle wear and tear (maintenance), parking, and insurance costs will, or may be reducedsubstnatially
when working from home (Alvi, McIntyre 22; Filipczak 54; Ford, Butts 20).
Clothing. Working in the office less translates into a wardrobe savings as well (Alvi, McIntyre 22;
Polsky 28). The telecommuter simply has less of a need for as many outfits as does the office-based
worker. Home workers do not need to have clothes dry-cleaned as often or as extensively as an office-
based worker, again saving money (Caudron 49).
Food. People working out of their home save money by avoiding eating out, or conducting
power lunches. Taken singly, lunch savings may be insignificant, but tallied after one month,
significant savings are apparent (Alvi, McIntyre; Filipczak 54; Ford, Butts 20; Polsky 28).
Child care opportunity. Due to the flexible scheduling of home workers, and their station in the
home, telecommuters are sometimes able to save money by watching their children at home rather than
taking them to a day-care or similar facility (Alvi, McIntyre 23; Prystash 97; Yap, Tng 235). While
64% of telecommuters with children under 5 still do use child care facilities outside of the home
(Hartman, Stoner, Arora 39), the option of home care remains for those choosing to do so (Olson,
Primps 108, 109). While tending to children while working may save money and seem attractive,
organizations as well as nearly all literature covering this topic advise against it due to the lack of
uninterrupted work time, corporate security issues, and due to a reduction in productivity (Olson,
Primps 109).
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Physically disadvantaged. Persons with physical limitations, but who need, or want to work, have
options available to them through telecommuting (Ford, Butts 20; Handy, Mokhtarian 100; Nigro 53).
Should a persons handicap prevent them from being able to commute to the office on a regular basis,
their opportunities for a upper level management, or other professional position may be jeopardized.
Problems with Employee Integration
To many employees, informal contacts at work are a source of relief, relaxation, and enjoyment.
Friendships created at work are many times strengthened by frequency with which workers interact.
Telecommuting may erode these benefits of personal interaction (Alvi, McIntyre 24; Chaudron 6;
Maynard 62; McQuarrie 82; Mokhtarian, Murphey 62; Nigro 55; Risman 374; Salomon 754;
Tomaskovic-Devey, Yap, Tng 228, 232). Ford and Butts note: The conversations during coffee
breaks or at after hours gatherings often provide good opportunities to learn more about what is going
on within the organization and to feel a part of a work group. The lack of such interaction may lead to
a feeling of alienation from ones co-workers as well as a lack of identity with the company goals and
values (21).
An employees ignorance of company views, policies, and/ or culture, would most likely display
him/her as something of a misfit. A worker who isnt really a worker in the eyes of office-based
workers will most likely experience problems/obstacles large enough to negatively affect his/her work
(Ford, McLaughlin 71; Hartman, Stoner, Arora 40; Rittershaus 73;).
To the extent that a telecommuter is absent from the office, managements perception of them as
being a team player may be stifled. Such a typecast could have a negative effect on that employees
advancement potential. McQuarrie states concerning a telecommuters advancement potential:
Such an arrangement would offer little in the way of education or advancement for a
worker based in an office; for a worker at home, isolated physically and socially from
the organization and other workers, opportunities for advancement may be almost
nonexistent unless the employee is willing to give up the telecommuting arrangement
and return to the office. Consequently, telecommuting, though possibly resulting in
greater productivity, may also result in decreased job satisfaction and organizational
commitment. (81)
Hartman, et. al. also note such a problem: management may have to consider telecommuting as a
temporary type of work arrangement for individuals with high potential for advancement (41).
Filipczak also concurs with such complications arising from telecommuting: If a telecommuter wants
15


to be considered for promotion, he must be willing to forgo his telecommuting arrangement according
to the demands of the job (56).
Likewise, to the extent that a telecommuter is absent from the office, supervisors and/or
management may fall prey to the out of sight, out of mind syndrome, in which telecommuters are
generally not considered for promotions or special projects due to their lack of visibility in the office,
and not necessarily due to their decreased interaction with other workers (Alvi, McIntyre 24; Chaudron
6; Filipczak 56; Ford, McLaughlin 69; Hartman, Stoner, Arora 40; Kroll 23; McQuarrie 81;
Mokhtarian 754; Nigro 56; Olson, Primps 111; Polsky 29; Prystash 98; Steve 38 Yap, Tng 234).
Telecommuting is clearly viewed as a detriment to promotions.
Supervisorv/Subordinate Relationship Change
The nature of the relationship the telecommuter has with his/her supervisor or manager will
undergo a modification as a result of the telecommuting process, whether intended or not. This
modification should be the result of a conscious effort designed to adapt to the new style of work within
the department/organization (McQuarrie 82). This change will affect methods used to appraise
telecommuter performance, manage subordinates work and duties, conduct informal communication,
and other organizational processes.
McQuarrie notes, For telecommuting to be employed successfully, fundamental changes must
take place in organizational structure, the relationship between companies and their workers, and the
broader outlook of organizations. Both companies and workers must leant to trust each other and
accept a lessening of hierarchical control (82). This was clearly exemplified in the Olson and Primps
study, in which they found highly skilled professionals, who were accustomed to a high degree of
autonomy in their work, had that autonomy reinforced by working at home pison, Primps 105). This
increased autonomy however, seemed to be dependent on position level, and formality of the
telecommuting arrangement. Clerical workers generally felt their relationship with supervisors had
deteriorated. In contrast, the majority with informal arrangements believed that their relationship with
the supervisor was enhanced, suggesting that they had achieved a desirable situation of increased
autonomy (Olson, Primps 105).
Alteration of Measuring Performance
Some American managers have long upheld the benefits of MBWA, or management by walking
around. This type of supervision simply involves keeping an eye on employees, ensuring they are
producing well. As long as factory, or office production was not viewed as low, the organization was
16


running well. This approach generally does not take into consideration how welleac/i employee is
performing. Management by Objectives, on the other hand, measures results or output of employees or
an organization compared to pre-established goals or objectives. Management by Objectives (MBO)
does not necessarily involve physical viewing of employees to assess their productivity, but rather
tracks their production, or project completion rate, and whether or not those products are of acceptable
quality (Filipczak 55). Managers resistance to manage employees that are not physically in the
organization is many times mentioned in telecommuting literature (Atkinson 107; Handy, Mokhtarian
107; Hecquet), and reflected in comments such as this, by Garcia: Some managers resent losing
control over workers (52). Prystash notes Managers resist because of perceived loss of power and
control over employee performance and results (98).
Once a department or organization endorses and enacts a telecommuting program, those workers
participating in the program are no longer able to be physically viewed during the days they
telecommute. A telecommuters manager should utilize the MBO approach to better evaluate and
guide the telecommuter in this growing work-style (Alvi, McIntyre 23,24; Atkinson 107; Canadian
Manager 19; Filipczak 55; Guiley 27; Kroll 23; Prystash 98; Rittershaus 72). If the telecommuters
manager feels the need to view employees to manage effectively, this management style must change if
the telecommuting program is to be a success, as a performance management system strongly affects
telecommuter satisfaction (Hartman, Stoner, Arora 37).
Choosing to Telecommute
While the elimination of a commute to work would seem universally attractive, the number of
workers who choose to telecommute (of those who have the option), indicates that this work-style may
not be as appealing when viewed from outside. Research conducted on why someone chooses to
telecommute contributes several interesting findings. Mannering and Mokhtarian have found the
presence of small children in the household, the number of people in the household, the gender of
telecommuting respondent, number of vehicles in the household, job task scheduling control,
supervisory status, family orientation, and ability to borrow equipment if necessary, to be considered to
have the most explanatory power for how often one telecommutes (71). A study of female computer
professionals in Singapore found similar reasons for favoring telecommuting, with the ability to
simultaneously work and take care of children cited as the strongest reason to favor telecommuting,
with the desire for flexible work hours, and autonomy over their own time schedule being second and
third most important. (Yap, Tng 231). Due to differences in culture between Singapore and the
U.S.A., this study has admittedly questionable generalizability to the American culture, however, these
17


results do not seem distant to those of Mannering and Mokhtarian. Still, some studies and articles
stress the inappropriateness of telecommuting as a baby-sitting opportunity (Filipczak 55; Olson,
Primps 109; Polsky 28).
Employee Satisfaction
While employee satisfaction with career, organization, and peer group is always considered
important by organizations, it takes on increased importance in the realm of telecommuting. For each
professional employee an organization has, there has been considerable investments on the
organizations part in terms of time recruiting, training, and developing, considerable monetary
investments in the above mentioned acts as well as providing salary, insurance, pension installments, as
well as other benefits. A professional level worker performing well who is up to speed and responsible
for work group/s or department/s is an asset no organization can afford to lose. To this end,
organizations understandably expel great energy and resources ensuring their most valued workers are
content with their position in life as well as in the organization. Such acts may include the decision to
implement a formal telecommuting program for those professionals whose job duties would allow it,
and who wish to partake of such a program. Addressing an employees satisfaction in such a way is
one way to help ensure their long-term commitment to the organization, maintain a high level of
morale, and avoid inefficiencies involved in the cost of recruiting and selecting employees to replace
those who have left due to dissatisfaction with the organization (T. Berg 269).
Satisfaction again, becomes an issue once an employee is operating within a telecommuting
program (Hartman, Stoner, Arora 36,37). As mentioned above, telecommuting changes the nature of
the relationship among the telecommuter and their superiors, co-workers, and subordinates. Should
participation in a telecommuting program result in such a change to the disapproval of the
telecommuter, the department and/or organization must be willing to allow that employee to return to
the normal work pattern of commuting to and from the work site. Though reasons for the desire for
an individual to terminate telecommuting are varied, some emerge as the most common. According to
research, the absence from social interaction both formal and informal, with co-workers, superiors, and
subordinates is clearly one of the largest drawbacks, and motivator to cease telecommuting (Alvi,
McIntyre 22; Filipczak 54; Ford, McLaughlin 69; Hartman, Stoner, Arora 37; Murphey 62; Steve 38;
Yap, Tng 231,232,234; Young 21). This absence from the work place generates several problems, the
most consequential are the lessened chances for promotion, and genuine longing for the interpersonal
interaction available to them in the office (Alvi, McIntyre 24; Chaudron 6; Ford, McLaughlin 71;
Handy, Mokhtarian 107; Kroll 23; McQuarrie 82; Nigro 55; Polsky 29; Steve 38; Yap, Tng 234).
18


Certain questions seem to be more common among telecommuters with such worries: Will I become
invisible to management? Will I be evaluated equally compared to in-office workers? Will promotions
and even lateral job opportunities be available? (Chaudron 6; Filipczak 56; Prystash 98).
Corporate Commitment to Telecommuting
With many telecommuting pilot programs and trials ongoing in this country, it would seem that
corporations have accepted this work-style as beneficial for certain people and positions, and for the
organization (Prystash 98). Many studies have shown the financial and productivity benefits of this
method of working, and manager feedback shows that telecommuting can be consistent with the
Management by Objectives (MBO) approach of most large corporations (Prystash 98). Despite this,
full-scale implementations of telecommuting are rare in this country, and the reasons span corporate
cultures, management philosophies, employee concerns, union contracts/opinions and legal unknowns
(Prystash 98). This stumbling block for telecommuting could not be more detrimental to its
advancement. Just as any major policy or procedural change requires the support of top management
and executive levels, telecommuting requires it with conviction. Management philosophies and
supervisor attitudes toward telecommuting also play a large role in the success or failure of a
telecommuting project (Prystash 98). The organization must understand who is telecommuting and
why, support such a work-style, and be willing and prepared to defend that decision against the
criticisms of potential telecommuters who have negative feelings about their own inability or
ineligibility to telecommute.
Without the support of those at the highest levels of the organization, telecommuting is destined to
be an informal arrangement allowed to few workers without the opportunity for proper training,
equipment, and policies that are crucial for these workers and their managers (Ford, McLaughlin 67,71;
Hecquet; Prystash 98).
19


CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
Restatement of Major Research Question
This study attempted to discover: What perceptions do telecommuters have about the way
telecommuting has resulted in a perceived shift of their roles, status, and promotability among their
professional relationships?
General Characteristics of the Study Population
The sample for this study was composed of persons who work at home at least three times a month,
and utilize communications or telecommunications technology to communicate with someone, or to
electronically link up with some form of computer related hardware at their normal work-office from
home, at least once for each of those three days. This study required that these workers be physically
absent from their normal place of work for these three days. These persons were not self employed, but
had work or duties which are assigned, controlled, and evaluated by the organization in which they are
employed. Workers who work at telecenters were not included in this sample, as they are likely to have
interaction with other organizational members at such a telecenter (Mokhtarian 757). The amount of
work, or the number of hours a worker works while telecommuting at home during each of those three
days is not important as these factors vary considerably under normal office working conditions.
As an example, for the purpose of this study, a worker may bring home a manuscript on a Friday
afternoon to be read on Monday. The worker reads the manuscript, on Monday and simply calls in to
the office to comment on the manuscript to a co-worker. This constitutes telecommuting for the
purpose of this study. As another example, a worker finishes his work day at the office and returns
home. At home, the worker links his/her computer (by use of a modem) to a computer in a building
owned by their employing organization and continues working on what s/he had been working on
earlier that day. This does not constitute telecommuting for the purpose of this study, because in this
scenario, his/her electronic linking does not substitute for a physical absence from the work place
during normal working hours.
For the purpose of this study, the amount of time a subject has worked in an organization,
department, or with the same supervisor, or co-workers was deemed relevant. To be considered a study
20


subject, a telecommuter must have had at least two months experience in their current position. This
time requirement served two purposes. First, such a time period would nearly ensure sufficient
telecommuting experience/s from which the participant could draw responses to questions, if this was
their first telecommuting position. The second reason for this time requirement was to make certain
that the telecommuter had ample interaction experience with office-based co-workers. This interaction
experience would be the standard against which any telecommuting-induced interactive changes would
be compared. The study sample was completely acquired from the Denver metropolitan area (see
sampling designs and procedures).
Specific Characteristics of the Study Population
Of the thirty two respondents interviewed for this research, twenty four were female, and eight
were male. Nineteen of the respondents worked for either local (15), or federal (4) government (not for
profit), and the remaining thirteen subjects worked in the private (for profit) sector. Of the thirteen
private sector telecommuters interviewed, ten worked in some part of the telecommunications industry.
Though managerial status was not discussed as part of this study, at least seven of the thirty two
respondents mentioned having managerial, or supervisory status. For the purpose of this study, age,
occupation, physical attributes, race, length of residence, and education were considered irrelevant,
though in an applied setting, these characteristics would most likely be important.
Definition of Terms and Concepts
Telecommuter. For the purpose of this study, a telecommuter is one who works away from their
regular work setting at least three times per month, and has no personal contact with organizational
members during those three days, though communicates with someone, or some communicative device
(computer, voice mail, etc.) at their central work location, during these days. While such a definition
may seem excessively inclusive at first, it contains the essential elements describing the telecommuting
work-style: a replacement of the physical commute to a central work location, and continued
communication among telecommuters and office-based workers. The scope of this definition is
supported by numerous researchers, many of which define a telecommuters actions in more inclusive
terms, for example:
A telecommuter is an office worker who performs a job, part time or full time, away from the
corporate office building (Canadian Manager 19).
21


Telecommuting means, essentially, doing your job at home or at a satellite location instead of
working at the main office (Filipczak 53).
(Telecommuting) describes the substitution of telecommunications and computers for the
commute to a central office (Ford, Butts 19).
Telecommuting is the substitution of communications technology for travel to a central work
location. (Ford, McLaughlin 66)
First, telecommuters need not be computer users, and even if they are, they may not
necessarily use computers at home; telecommuters may bring home only then-
paperwork, reading, or thinking, for example. Second, most telecommuting is part-
time, on the order of one or two days per week. So what defines a telecommuter? In
a transportation-centered definition, the key element is the elimination of commute
trips for a home-based telecommuter... (Handy, Mokhtarian 101).
Telecommuting is defined as a work arrangement where organizational employees regularly work
at home or at a remote site one or more complete workdays a week in lieu of working in the office
(Hartman, Stoner, Arora 36).
Simply defined, its just getting ones work done away from the central office (Kelly 2).
Telecommuting generally describes a work arrangement in which employees work in their homes
and commute to their offices through the use of such technologies as computers, modems, fax
machines, and electronic mail (McQuarrie 79).
Telecommuting working at home or at a location close to home instead of commuting to a
conventional work location at the conventional time... (Mannering, Mokhtarian 49).
Telecommuting.. .may be defined as using telecommunications technology to work at home, or at
a location close to home, during regular work hours, instead of commuting to a conventional work
place at the conventional time (Mokhtarian, Salomon 749).
Telecommuting, which means the substitution of telecommunications for physical travel to
work... (Olson, Primps 98).
Telecommuting is generally defined as the use of telecommunications technology to enable the
employee to work at home (Prystash 95).
Telecommuting is the partial or total substitution of telecommunications technology of the
traditional trip to and from the primary workplace (Steve 36).
Telecommuting employees working from home using computer technology... (Tomaskovic-
Devy, Risman 367).
The term telecommuting refers to the substitution of computer and telecommunications
technologies for physical travel to a central work location (Yap,Tng 227).
22


Telecommuting, or working from home with the aid of telecommunication and computer-based
technology... (Young 19).
For the definition used in this study, communicate denotes an information or symbolic exchange
of some kind. This communication can be with anyone who is part of the organization for whom the
telecommuter works, or with anyone the telecommuter must deal with in order to conduct work duties.
This communication can also be an electronic link with computerized hardware for the purpose of
information exchange that is work-related. Any type of these communications must take place at least
once each telecommuting day. These workers must be physically absent from their normal place of
work for these three days. These persons can not be self employed. These persons must have work or
duties which are assigned, controlled, and evaluated by the organization in which they are employed,
and for which the telecommuting is taking place. The tasks performed at their home at least three days
per month will be tasks assigned by the organization in which they are employed. Workers who work
at a telecenter three days per month are not included in this sample, as they are likely to have
interaction with other organizational members at such a telecenter (Mokhtarian 757).
Telecommuting: For the purpose of this study, telecommuting is the act of utilizing
communications or telecommunications technology to communicate with someone, or to electronically
link up with some form of computerized hardware, with the result of any form of information exchange.
This technology includes telephone calls, faxes, email, conference calls, video-teleconferencing, down-
or uploading data, voice-mail, paging services, etc. The location to which a person is linking may be
any location that is where the worker has regular personal/physical contact with other members of the
organization for which s/he works. The location from which a person links must not be their normal
work office or space. This includes the main organizational building, satellite offices operated by the
organization which contain more than one worker, telecenters in which workers have regular
physical/personal contact with other organizational members, or any location in which the
telecommuting worker has regular physical contact with other members of the organization for which
the telecommuter is working.
Regular contact'. For the purpose of this study, regular contact is considered face-to-face, visual,
verbal, or other physical connection and/or association that the telecommuter has with another
member/worker of the organization for which the telecommuter is working, at least twice per week.
What is not included as regular contact is an incidence in which a telecommuters co-worker
comes over to the telecommuters house in order to jointly work on a project, only once per week for
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example. In this instance, this type of contact, due to its scarcity of personal contact coupled with its
location, is not viewed as being sufficient source of organizational contact.
Telecenter. A telecenter is any location which is physically apart from the main organizational
building/s in which two or more organizational members go to in order to conduct work. Such a center
exists for the purpose of workers conducting work outside of main organizational building/s and using
communication or telecommunications technology to contact any organizational member, or piece of
computerized hardware.
Communication/telecommunications technology: Communication/telecommunications technology
is any technology that electrically, or electronically allows the transmission and/or reception of any
type of signal. These types of signals would include an electrical impulse, a voice over a telephone, a
digital signal, an electronic signal, binary, and other data transmitted or received by computer, and even
the pulses emitted during Morse Code type transmission.
Normal work hours: Work hours are the number of hours (or fraction thereof), a worker conducts
activity which is required/requested/or suggested of him/her by the organization, so long as their
current activity qualifies as work.
Normal work hours is the usual time or times of the day, week, or month that a worker is involved
in an activity which is required/requested/or suggested of him/her by the organization, so long as their
current activity qualifies as work.
This usual time is defined as those moments of work in which a worker does not perceive the
current work time as an irregular time to conduct work. This definition is created as an attempt to
isolate those times when working does not simply fit the conditions, mood, time of day/week, of the
worker or work setting. While a worker may not consider working at the kitchen table after finishing
dinner as usual work time, that worker may also not consider it to be an unusual work time if that
worker does such work a few times per week. With that in mind, if the worker does not deem working
at the kitchen table after finishing dinner to be unusual working time, it is then considered for this
study to be usual working time.
Perceptions telecommuters have: These perceptions are defined as feelings, beliefs, hunches,
fears, observations, understandings, awareness, and/or considerations that a telecommuter experiences.
Shift, or modification of their role, status or promot ability: This refers to changes or modifications
to the telecommuters image, personality, productivity, promotability, professionalism, competence,
formal position, the degree to which they are a team or individual player, are perceived as such, or
degree of deserved affection (whether manifested or not), as perceived by co-workers, managers,
other organizational members, or by the telecommuter him/herself. A shift also refers to changes or
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modifications to the telecommuters position, both formal and informal in organizational (formal)
relationships and in the informal relationships within the organization, and outside of the organization
that are comprised of organizational members, or the feelings of the telecommuter or other
organizational members that such aspects should change or be modified. This shift also refers to
changes or modifications of the telecommuters feelings of whether or not s/he is as productive, useful,
desired, needed, and integral to the organization, as well as the telecommuters curiosity or feelings
about other organizational members feelings about those same issues.
Research Design
The research was a qualitative, ethnographic, exploratory study of cross-sectional-survey design.
In understanding social phenomena from the actors perspective, in-depth, semi-structured,
ethnographic interviews were conducted with participants, to assess their perceptions concerning the
major research question.
The qualitative methodology was chosen for its application to new fields of study. In the study of
any new phenomenon, research must first be conducted in an inductive manner. One must observe, and
take information which is given to them or acquired and assess the situation, before forming
generalizations about the subject population, and moving to hypotheses.
Qualitative research design allows a level of flexibility for modification and does not require
strictly defined research questions (Berg 15-16; Taylor, Bogdan 5). This flexibility allows for
adjustments in nearly any part of the study, during the study, as to ensure the research progresses in
relation to data gathered, and situations encountered.
When conducting research on any phenomenon which is relatively new to observation or other
study, Ely, Anzul, Friedman, Gamer, and Steinmetz note that Events can be understood adequately
only if they are seen in context (4). At this early stage of telecommuting research, qualitative methods
allow for a holistic view of a phenomenon for study, ensuring that people, settings, or groups are not
reduced to variables, but are viewed as a whole (Ely, Anzul, Friedman, Gamer, Steinmetz 4; Taylor,
Bogdan 6). This is crucial for developing the essential, accurate context from which telecommuting
will be studied in the future.
The study was exploratory in that the exploratory design is used to accumulate data in order to
formulate more precise hypotheses and research questions (Behling 47). As telecommuting research,
and indeed all research, needs to be studied at the most basic levels in order to create a context for
future research, this study was designed as the first of several attempting to expand the knowledge base
of this work-style.
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This study was designed as a cross-sectional study in that it analyzed individual subjects
perceptions only at one point in time through the course of the study, and not longitudinally. This study
was conducted as survey design as opposed to observational design because in attempting to better
understand the situations and issues telecommuters must deal with in order to create a more accurate
context for future research, it is important that all data is provided from the subjects themselves, and
not gleaned from interpretations of their actions (Marshall, Rossman 82).
Pre-testing the Data Collection Instrument
Five preliminary interviews were conducted in order to assess the appropriateness of the interview
questions. Though questions and their ordering were allowed to vary throughout the study interviews,
there was a core set of questions that were asked of all interviewees. The pre-testing of the interview
schedule allowed the researcher to assess this core set of questions for possible modification, as well as
gain an understanding of what types of open-ended and probing questions work best. The pre-test
interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, processed, and analyzed. They were found to contain
relevant research data, and as no significant modifications were made to the interview schedule, or
procedure as a result of the pre-test interviews, they were included in the data corpus. Behling
suggests: the cases used in the pretest can also be included as part of the actual data to be collected.
This is possible when and if the pretest cases can be legitimately included in the sample and there are
no serious errors in the instruments as designed (62).
Behling also notes the size of potential pre-test groups: A pretest is submitting the instruments to
a very small group of respondents who should be encouraged to be critical of the schedule and its
instruments. This kind of pretest may consist of only five or six subjects (62). The current research
study utilized five subjects for the pretest of the interview schedule. This number is viewed as
sufficient, as all pre-test interviews were found to be eligible for inclusion with the remainder of
interview data. The respondents for the pre-test were recruited in the same way, and from the same
locations as respondents for the normal study (non-pre-test) interviews.
Sampling Design and Procedures
The size of the sample in this study was thirty two subjects. This sample size produced the
replication of responses that is characteristic of sufficient qualitative design. Janesick notes: In
qualitative research, the investigator samples until repetition... is obtained. This provides concurring
and confirming data, and ensures saturation (230).
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Through educational relationships, the researcher obtained a small, beginning sample of potential
subjects. From this sample, the researcher then began a snowball sample, in which subjects were asked
to refer other people who could serve as subjects (Burgess 77). In addition to snowball sampling, the
researcher contacted various mid-size and larger organizations in the Denver metro area to assess their
willingness to contribute to the study by allowing telecommuters to participate. Potential study
participants were contacted by telephone in order to describe the research, and solicit participation. At
this time, potential participants were provided with an operational definition of telecommuter to
verify whether or not their work-style utilized telecommuting, as defined in this study. Mid-size and
larger organizations were contacted due to their increased chances of supporting and operating a
telecommuting system, due to their increased chances of supporting a relatively large information-
processing labor force (Tomaskovic-Devey, Risman 371). This type of sampling is supported by
Janesick: Sampling occurs purposefully, rather than by some form of random selection from a
purposefully chosen population, as in quantitative research (230).
Data Collection Instrument
A semi-structured interview format of twenty items was used for this study. Due to the nature of
this research being cross-sectional, certain information deemed necessary was obtained prior to
interview completion; hence the semi-structured format. The questions of a semi-structured interview
are typically asked of each interviewee in a systematic and consistent order, but the interviewers are
allowed freedom to digress; that is, the interviewers are permitted (in fact expected) to probe far
beyond the answers to their prepared and standardized questions (Berg 33).
The structure of this sampling technique was provided in the way of a core set of questions, and
contextual questions that were to be asked all respondents. The core questions focused on the major
research question for this study. The contextual questions were also asked of all participants where
applicable in order to provide a context from which to analyze responses given to the core questions, as
well as any dialog given in response to open ended questions, or in discussion with the researcher.
These interview questions are presented later in the chapter.
In order to put subjects at ease, and in order for the researcher to begin creating rapport as well as
obtaining some context from which to view the responses, an early attempt was made prior to the
interviews to discuss non-critical, if not trivial issues to leant about what the subjects view as
important, and to try to gain an understanding of the context from which they would address the
interview questions.
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The structured portion of the interviews ensured that certain essential information was obtained in
the same context, in every interview situation. This structure was balanced out with descriptive, open-
ended, and probing questioning.
Descriptive questioning enabled subjects to verbalize what they feel is important without having
their responses structured (Taylor, Bogdan 89). Open-ended questions allowed the opportunity for
issues to be raised that may have otherwise gone unmentioned by the interviewer, or for a respondent to
simply raise a personal point of view (Behling 61). Probing questions were used as necessary in order
encourage the subject to describe experiences in detail, until the researcher was confident of the
respondents context, and what meaning was attached to experiences described (TaylorBogdan 96).
This method of asking questions was combined in an effort to keep the interview flexible, while
providing sufficient structure.
All interviews were tape recorded for clarity of response during analyses of data. During study
design, it was understood that some respondents might feel uncomfortable being recorded, though only
one potential subject chose to not participate, solely due to such discomfort. Of the thirty two
participants, none appeared affected by the presence of the tape recorder, or by the knowledge that their
words would be transcribed. As respondents knew that they were guaranteed anonymity, and as they
realized that their words were being weighed as important regardless, the tape recorder being present in
the interviews benefited this research more than hindered it. Moyser concurs stating, with well chosen
(i.e. discrete) equipment and reasonable rapport, recording does not generally seem to disturb the
atmosphere unduly (127).
As any collection instrument has drawbacks, the type of interview used for this study, while
attempting to account for shortcomings of rigid and loose interviews, still had disadvantages. Taylor
and Bogdan note the following drawbacks to the interviewing process:
1) As a form of conversation, interviews are subject to the same fabrications, deceptions,
exaggerations, and distortions that characterize talk between any persons (81). While subjects
apparently have nothing to gain by deceiving the interviewer, it is understandable that they may wish to
tell the interviewer what I think s/he wants to hear. At no time during the interviews, or during data
analysis, were any respondents or responses considered, or appeared as, less than truthful.
2) Since interviewers, as interviewers, do not directly observe people in their everyday lives, they
are deprived of the context necessary to understand many of the perspectives in which they are
interested (Taylor, Bogdan 82). While total clarity may elude all interviewers, there can be no greater
action taken during the interview than to utilize probing questions to sufficiently and as completely as
possible, ascertain the context and meaning from which the respondent approaches the matter at hand.
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As presented, this research is believed to have been conducted in proper context, and with adequate
understanding of meaning concerning subjects responses.
Instruments. Tools for Measuring Variables
While any portion of the interview was subject to alteration in order to fit the circumstances, a
twenty item core of questions was used in order to assure that on certain questions, usually those of
most importance, respondents were replying to the same question and not a similar question possibly
embedded in a different context due to a change in a few words. Prior to recording of interviews, a five
item demographic survey was filled out by participants. These five items while not demographic in
terms of sex, race, age, etc., but were demographic in that they asked simple questions designed to
provide the researcher with an explanatory aid during data analysis. This five item survey, along with
the twenty item interview core are presented below.
Telecommuter Survey Questions
1. How long have you been telecommuting?
2. Approximately how often do you telecommute?
3. Do you know how long you will telecommute in your current career? If yes, how long?
4. How long would you like to telecommute?
5. Do you have the same supervisor/s or co-workers than you did before you began
telecommuting?
General
Telecommuter Perception Interview Questions
1. What was it that originally created your interest in telecommuting?
2. Do you wish to continue telecommuting? Why/ Why not?
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Role. Telecommuter
3. Do you perceive yourself to be in a role as a telecommuting worker, that is in some way
different than any roles you might have seen yourself in, before you began telecommuting?
Role. Supervisor/ Co-Workers
4. Do you feel that your supervisor/ Co-workers perceive you to be in a role that is different than
the role/s you filled prior to telecommuting?
Status. Organizational
5. Is your formal status in the organization now any different than it was before you began
telecommuting?
Status. Telecommuter
6. Does it feel like your status has changed since you began telecommuting?
Status. Supervisor/ Co-Workers
7. Do you feel that your supervisor/ Co-workers perceive your status to have changed since you
began telecommuting?
Promotabilitv. Organizational
8. Has there been any indication to you that as a result of your telecommuting status, your
potential promotability has, or will be affected in this organization?
Promotabilitv. Telecommuter
9. Do you personally feel that your promotability has been affected as a result of telecommuting?
Promotabilitv. Supervisor/Co-Workers
10. Do you feel that your supervisor/ co-workers view your promotability to have changed since
you began telecommuting?
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General
11. If you were to describe your job before you began telecommuting, and after, how do you
think the two compare?
12. Do you feel that by not being in the organization (1 day/week), you are missing out on
important events and/or happenings?
13. Has your productivity been affected in any way as a result of telecommuting?
14. How would you describe the management style by which you are managed?
15. If you were do list some downsides to telecommuting, what would they be?
16. Have any of your professional relationships changed in ways that were not mentioned here,
that you feel were a result of telecommuting?
17. Have you ever encountered what you perceive to be feelings of envy from supervisors or co-
workers, due to your telecommuting status?
18. When telecommuting, are you available to come into the office at a moments notice?
19. When telecommuting, is it easy for the office to contact you if needed?
20. Do you have any questions or comments regarding telecommuting that you would like to
ask/add?
Administration of the Data Collection Instrument
In administering interviews to participants, the researcher took necessary action to provide an
interview setting that is conducive to frank, open communication with a minimum of distractions.
Interviews were conducted in the respondents private office or cubicle, in a vacant conference room, in
cafeterias with fewer than ten people in the cafeteria, and in private homes of telecommuters. In each
situation the interviewee was allowed to suggest a site and time for the interview. This was done in
order to allow the interviewee to control their own comfort level by choosing a setting they are
31


comfortable with, and a time frame where they are least likely to be rushed or pensive about other
commitments. As conducted, no interview needed to be moved to another location or stopped due to
disruptions, poor recording conditions, or any other reason.
Upon arriving at the agreed location and engaging in a few minutes of small talk, the researcher
presented the respondent with the five item survey and research consent form. While the participant
was filling out the survey and signing the research consent form, the researcher prepared for the
interview by setting up the tape recorder, and setting aside the interview schedule. After completion of
the five item survey and research consent form, the interview proceeded with the tape recorder being
turn on.
Data collection took place exclusively in the Denver metropolitan area. All subjects were
employed in organizations in that area.
Data Processing Procedures
Once an interview was completed, the researcher began typing or transcribing the words spoken by
both the researcher and the interviewee, using the tape/s created during the interview. During the data
processing procedures, an organizational system using mnemonic codes was created in order to store,
retrieve, manipulate, and index data. This organizing system of qualitative data is traditionally
constructed from prior material, such as the theoretical framework adopted...or it can be constructed
from the data themselves (Tesch 119). Data processing for this research took the latter route, using
the data to dictate the structure of the organizing system. The organizing system used in this study was
one in which relevant topics, and sub-topics of data (sentences, phrases, or answers) received lettered
codes. For example, if an interviewee described how their manager dictated or influenced their
telecommuting situation, the phrase or sentence in the transcript pertaining to this statement received
the code: MIT, which stands for Managerial influence on telecommuting.
Transcript statements were not limited to a certain number of codes. If a single statement bore
relevance to several codes, it was labeled with all of them. Transcripts were coded as categories
emerged throughout the process of the ongoing analysis from the data. The codes evolved continuously
throughout the study during data collection and the concurrent coding process. For this coding process,
and for the data analysis, the computer software The Ethnograph from Qualis Research Associates
was used, along with hard (paper) copies used to provide easier association of large quantities of topics.
The Ethnograph software is a program that accepts the text of interview transcripts, field notes,
open-ended answers from surveys, and various types of documents. The Ethnograph facilitates:
identification, coding, organization, analysis, retrieval, and frequency counts of this qualitative data.
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For this research, The Ethnograph program was used to organize interview transcripts, to mark those
transcripts with lettered codes pertaining to transcript content, to group related codes together, to
isolate passages of transcription as needed for analysis, to analyze transcript text, and lettered code
frequency counts of the study population, as well as smaller groups of respondents.
Charts 3.1 to 3.9 list all lettered codes used during data processing and analysis, along with a short
description of their meaning. These codes are grouped under categories in which they combine to
create an encompassing description of phenomena mentioned by respondents.
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Chart 3.1 Lettered Codes for the Category: Major Research Question
Major Research Question
PABT Promotability affected by telecommuting
PMAT Promotion might affect telecommutability
PNABT Promotability not affected by telecommuting
RABT Role affected by telecommuting
RNABT Role not affected by telecommuting
SABT Status affected by telecommuting
SCDSPC Supervisor/co-workers do not see promotability change
SCDSRC Supervisor/co-workers do not see role change
SCDSSC Supervisor/co-workers do not see status change
SCSPC Supervisor/co-workers see promotability change
SCSRC Supervisor/co-workers see role change
scssc Supervisor/co-workers see status change
SNABT Status not affected by telecommuting
Chart 3.2 Lettered Codes for the Category: Busy Office
Busy Office
ODDP Office distractions decrease production
OIS Office is social place
ONP Office is not private
TAOD Telecommuting avoids office distractions
TAUWT Telecommuting allows uninterrupted work time
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Chart 3.3 Lettered Codes for the Category: Interaction
Interaction
DPI (Telecommuting) decreases personal interaction
EPI (Telecommuting) eliminates personal interaction
IC Interaction changed
INC Interaction not changed
PCN Personal contact necessary
PCNN Personal contact not necessary
PRC Professional relationships change
PRDC Professional relationships do not change
PRPC Position requires personal contact
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Chart 3.4 Lettered Codes for the Category: What Telecommuters Think
What Telecommuters Think
DDP Do not desire promotion
DOT Downside of telecommuting
DTCT Desire to continue telecommuting
DTT Desire to telecommute
FPT Factors that promoted telecommuting
ITT Indifferent to telecommuting
LHW Liked home work
LT Like telecommuting
OAE Others are envious
ODUTR Others do not understand telecommuter role
OPNTIA Others perceptions not taken into account
OPTIA Others perceptions taken into account
OTTDWAH Others think telecommuters do not work at home
OUTR Others understand telecommuter role
PEW Previously was an efficient worker
PHW Previous home worker
TALF Telecommuting allows life flexibility
TCW Telecommuting changes work
TDAT Telecommuter does not advertise telecommuting due to others perceptions
TI Telecommuting interest
TMPIF Telecommuting will be more pervasive in future
TNWAOP Telecommuter not worried about others perception
TPA Telecommuter perceives autonomy
TRD Telecommuting requires discipline
TRE Telecommuting requires effort
TWAOP Telecommuter worried about others perception
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Chart 3.5 Lettered Codes for the Category: What Telecommuting does
What Telecommuting does
PINABT Productivity is not affected by telecommuting
TACC Telecommuting allows child care
TDNSM Telecommuting does not save money
TDP Telecommuting decreases productivity
TGE Telecommuting is good for the environment
TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
TIT Telecommuting increases trust from organization
TITIO Telecommuting improves time in office
TRS Telecommuting reduces stress
TRTRP Telecommuting reduces traffic related problems
TSD Telecommuting saves distance
TSE Telecommuting saves effort
TSM Telecommuting saves money
TST Telecommuting saves time
Chart 3.6 Lettered Codes for the Category: Telecommuter Preparedness
Telecommuter Preparedness
HITS Have insufficient telecommuting supplies
HITSP Have insufficient telecommuting space at home
HSTS Have sufficient telecommuting supplies
HTS Have sufficient telecommuting space at home
MITL (work) Material in two locations
TSB Telecommuting space beneficial
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Chart 3.7 Lettered Codes for the Category: Communication
Communication
LOC Lack of communication
LOIE Lack of information exchange
OTCD Organizational, telecommuter communication decreases
OTCI Organizational, telecommuter communication increases
TKI Telecommuter kept informed
TMIE Telecommuters miss important events
TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important
TNKI Telecommuter not kept informed
TROPC Telecommuting reduces organizational/political communication
TECONTC OM Telecommuter controls communication
Chart 3.8 Lettered Codes for the Category: Telecommuting is, is not
Telecommuting is, is not
TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
TIA Telecommuting is advantageous
TLE Telecommuting is less efficient than not
TNFE Telecommuting not for everybody
TNFS Telecommuting not for socialites
TSTGTBT Telecommuting seems too good to be true
TME Telecommuting is more efficient
TNFCC Telecommuting not for child care
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Chart 3.9 Lettered Codes for the Category: Other
Other
ADNRT Additional duties not related to telecommuting
BT (when) Began telecommuting
DNABT Duties not affected by telecommuting
GIT Government influence on telecommuting
MBO Management by objectives
MBWA Management by walking around
MGT They have managed telecommuters
MIT Managerial influence on telecommuting
NOOFP No office, open floor plan
OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
OSNN Office space not necessary
SCTNT Some choose to not telecommute
TA Telecommuter is adjustable
TE Telecommuting experiment
TEC Telecommuters easy to contact
TF Telecommuting frequency
TFW Telecommuting fit their type of work
TPWC Telecommuting program will continue
TTM Things telecommuters miss
TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
UT Unofficially telecommuting/telecommuted
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Data Analysis Procedures
Data analysis for this took place as early as the first reading of the interviews. After reading and re-
reading the interviews as necessary in order to develop a familiar understanding of their content, coding
began with the first interview, and continued until all data from all interviews were analyzed, as
supported by Denzin, and Lincoln (432); Ely, Anzul, Friedman, Gamer, and Steinmetz (86); Moyser
(129); and Taylor, and Bogdan (126-7).
Once transcripts were read, they were re-read while respondents comments concerning this
studys topics were assigned codes that related to those topics. As new codes were created, they were
systematically applied to the previous interviews to verify whether or not they applied to those
respondents comments. Eventually, when all transcripts were read, and all study relevant comments
could be applied to the existing coding framework, new code creation ceased. Such coding of data
allowed the researcher to quickly identify the context of statements, which was useful in searching for
and noticing patterns, as well as allowing for quantitative summaries of often mentioned topics.
At this time, the transcripts of the thirty two interviews were compared, using the codes as flags of
transcript content. In doing so, patterns emerged in the responses not only to the major research
question, but also to other interview questions. At this point, the researcher returned to the data, in
order to verify that indeed several or many respondents were noting similar responses to questions, and
in similar context. Once this verification was complete, the researcher returned to the data, for further
analysis. With information gathered during the interviews, the researcher was able to look for patterns
among respondents comments from several perspectives. Knowing whether the interviewee worked
for a profit, or a not for profit organization allowed the researcher to analyze the data according to this
standard. In this vein, analyses were conducted according to the profit status of organization, and other
organizational characteristics.
Reliability and Validity
Reliability
Qualitative research recognizes the social world as one undergoing constant change. Formal
research focusing on a social phenomenon will unlikely ever be re-created with one hundred percent
accuracy; the human dynamic ensures this. As time passes, and as corporate America acclimates to
telecommuting and alternative work-styles, telecommuters will hold distinct views about their work-
style, compared to their views today. The extent of these differences is not predictable. This does not
40


mean however, that this studys findings are not reliable. The results and interpretations presented in
chapters four and five are likely to remain nearly constant over time.
While data collected in a study similar to this one are likely to vary to a small extent, the
implications of those data will most likely bear resemblance to those presented in chapter five. That in
fact is one of the benefits of qualitative research. As qualitative research design is allowed the
flexibility necessary to adequately understand interviewees responses, conclusions drawn from those
responses neednt be limited to the words expressed, but the patterns relayed by a groups responses.
Through qualitative researchs ability to look at phenomena in their provided context, data from two
separate studies may reveal the same conclusions, though their data are not identical. The relationship
found in this study between alternative work-style training, and the ability to cope with co-workers
participating in alternative work-styles for example, is one that is likely to remain, and helps provide
this studys reliability.
Internal Validity
As this projects data were provided by the subjects themselves, this studys internal validity is
sufficient. In qualitative methods such as participant observation, a studys data derive from the
researchers interpretation of an observed setting, or phenomenon. Likewise, quantitative studies
sometimes create data based on credible, and appropriate assumptions. While common and appropriate,
these methods do not always reflect what the subjects feel, think, do, or say. This studys semi-
structured, ethnographic interviews, allow subjects to provide data that is free from interpretation. This
studys data are the responses provided by subjects, in their own words. In answering the researchers
questions, subjects were able to express feelings as befit them, providing their own context. Such a
methodology allows the participant to respond to a question in the manner, and at the length they deem
necessary, to completely present their position. As this studys methodology allowed for clarifying
and/or probing questions, potential misinterpretation of the subjects responses was further reduced, or
eliminated, as the researcher could ensure the context from which a subject responded. In the case of
this research, the known and important sources of error were identified, accounted for, and controlled,
or at least minimized.
In this manner, and through this methodology, the qualitative method was excellent for ensuring
what subjects felt, as the data were their own words, and because of the opportunity for subjects to
clarify their position/s. Due to this studys methodology, its internal validity is high.
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External Validity
Carefully chosen samples that are representative of a larger population are necessary in order for a
studys findings to be generalized. High external validity enables certain assumptions to be made about
how well a studys findings would transfer to a population outside of study participants.
For this study, participants were chosen only after it had been determined that they sufficiently
represented telecommuters, as defined earlier in this chapter. Many potential respondents were turned
away from this research due to their ineligibility, according to this definition. As such, all data
collected in this study were provided by a sample that is strictly defined, and was closely controlled.
To this end, the results of this study may be generalized to a population of telecommuters that this
studys carefully chosen sample represents. The results presented in chapter four, and the implications
presented in chapter five, are proposed here to represent the responses to be found, and implications
proposed, if this study were duplicated utilizing a distinct sample population; so long as the sampling
procedure followed that of this study.
Acknowledement of Biases
As with any research, selecting a topic for study indicates some form of bias for that topic. For this
study, the researcher concedes to possessing an interest in telecommuting, alternative work-styles, and
alternative work sites. That interest is not viewed as posing a threat to this studys reliability, validity,
or analyses. Possessing an interest in the research topic, the researcher conducted all research
processes, including literature research, data collection instrument creation and administration, data
processing and data analyses with what is believed to be an adequate attitude of detachment toward this
topic. Such an approach permitted the researcher to conduct this study in the context provided by
research participants, and not by the researcher.
An unbiased position from which to conduct research can be created by providing clear and stated
definitions of the constructs studied, and adhering to them. Intimate knowledge of a subject can at
times lead to high-context discussions of phenomena and/or findings. Approaching a study from a
position that is foreign, will help identify these areas where bias was previously encountered.
To cease the research of a topic due to the fear of an improperly conducted study clouded by bias,
would end to all research; scientific, and social scientific. In the realization of researchs benefits,
studies continue, with steps are taken to insure unbiased planning and execution of experiments and
studies.
42


Protection of Human Subjects
As this research is not experimental, as all subjects were interviewed of their accord, and as all
subjects retained the power to intentionally deceive with their responses, it is expected that no harm
befell the research participants.
This research proceeded with the informed consent of each participant. Subjects were interviewed
after being truthfully informed about their right to privacy, anonymity, and protection from harm,
physical, emotional, or any other kind.
Prior to beginning interviews, all subjects were notified of: the motives and intentions of the
researcher, their guaranteed anonymity in data analysis and report as well as in the final research report,
their entitlement to final say the opportunity to read, comment on, and exclude any of their comments
from any draft or final report prior to submission, logistics their agreement on when and where to
meet for data collection, and their protection from harm of any kind resulting from the research. As
conducted, this research was humane, and did not negatively affect the participants in any way.
43


CHAPTER 4
RESULTS
This study attempted to gauge the ways in which telecommuting affected ones role, status, and
promotability in the workplace. While telecommuting affects several groups within organizations, such
as, managers of telecommuters, office-based co-workers of telecommuters, telecommuters themselves,
and others, this study focused on the impact that was perceived by telecommuters, as a result of their
work-style. Through interviews conducted with telecommuters, this research has identified patterns
among subjects responses to questions addressing these changes in the workplace. In this chapter,
those responses to questions of role, status, and promotability change will be catalogued, and presented
along several dimensions.
Results will be presented for the study population as a whole, and broken up into relevant
categories. For this study, those categories are: Study population, All government offices studied (as
one group), City and County of Denver, Federal government office, All private organizations studied
(as one group), Private organization A, private organization B, private organizations not including A,
or B, Male respondents, and Female respondents.
Following presentation of answers to the major research question, a summary of the most often
talked about phenomena during interviews will be presented for each of the above mentioned
categories. These phenomena are represented by lettered codes, and when analyzed correctly, provide
insight as to perspectives telecommuters have, concerning their work-style, that would not be apparent
when analyzing respondents answers to questions which directly address the major research question.
These codes, and their related phenomena, were discovered during data processing and analyses
conducted on the lettered codes which were applied to all interview text during data processing.
44


Chart 4.1 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had a
perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: Study
population
Study population
Interview # Role affected by telecommuting? Status affected by telecommuting? Promotability affected by telecommuting?
1 Yes No No
2 No No No
3 No No No
4 Yes Yes No
5 Yes No No
6 No No No
7 Yes Yes Yes
8 Yes No No
9 No No Yes
10 Yes No Yes
11 Yes Yes Yes
12 No No No
13 No No Yes
14 No No No
15 Yes Yes Yes
16 No No No
17 No No No
18 Yes Yes No
19 Yes Yes No
20 No No No
21 No No No
22 No No No
23 Yes No Yes
24 No No No
25 No No No
26 No Yes Yes
27 No No No
28 No No Yes
29 Yes No No
30 No No No
31 No No No
32 No No Yes
37.5% Yes, 62.5% No 21.9% Yes, 78.1% No 31.3% Yes, 68.7% No
45


Role
Of the thirty two respondents, twelve (37.5%) felt that their role in the organization had been
affected by telecommuting, while twenty (62.5%) felt that their role had not been affected.
In regards to how their role had changed, one subject stated:
I think I had a different role in that it changed that.. .since, most of the time people
dont expect to see us, they dont count on us, they forget sometimes to even
call.. .because were not there, were not part of the same group, and (the) worst
effect is the three or four of us that used to be together in one office that were real
close because we were in the office all together and did the same type of
work...weve really drifted apart... (interview 4, lines 225-239)
Another subject stated, what you focus on in this type of environment since youre in the
minority is that you make sure that your deliverables are visible, that when you work, that it can be seen
as something that is constructive and has impact (interview 10, lines 206-212).
Of those twenty respondents (62.5%) that did not feel that their role had been affected by
telecommuting, one had this to say, telecommuting.. .has made no change in the eyes of people in this
(department) as to how they perceive me (interview 6, lines 449-453). The respondent in interview
seventeen also felt that their role had not changed, stating, this is what works for me, but I dont see
that anythings changed in terms of a role, just that its still requested) of me to be effective as
possible (lines 321-325).
Status
Of the thirty two respondents, seven (21.9%) felt that their status in the organization had been
affected by telecommuting, while twenty five (78.1%) felt that their status had not.
In regards to how their status had changed, one subject stated: .. .our particular supervisor is
always you know, you guys are telecommuters, youve earned this position, you dont deserve to be
treated like garbage you know like all the other people in the office... (interview 11, lines 419-424).
Another participant who felt that telecommuting has affected their status said: .. .going to
telecommuting has made it more like well yeah (name), hes in the elite group and I think they
consider most of us in telecommuting kind of in the elite group.. .so you know, that kind of puts you
above that level (interview 15, lines 143-150).
Of the twenty five participants who felt that telecommuting did not have an impact on their status
in the organization, one said this when asked if status had been affected: no I dont think it does
46


because the days that I am in, I still have that opportunity to do the face to face with my peers that are
here and the boss...too (interview 16, lines 521-525).
Promotabilitv
Of the thirty two respondents, ten (31.3%) felt that their promotability in the organization, or in
their careers had been affected by telecommuting, while twenty two (68.7%) felt that their
organizational or career promotability had not.
One respondent who felt that their promotability had been affected said this:
It has changed for, in my opinion, it hasnt changed for the better, because when
youre telecommuting, youre kind of like out of sight, out of mind, so therefore
when you go try for a position like a management position within your company, then
theyre just kind of like well who are you, and what can you do? (interview 11, lines
21-29)
Some participants felt that telecommuting affected their promotability in a positive way: .. .in the
industry that I work in, in communications,.. .1 am a member of a couple of national organizations
where the ability to telecommute and manage people who telecommute is a worthwhile skill, in that its
marketable... (interview 23, lines 146-152).
Of the twenty two (68.7%) respondents who felt that promotability was not affected by their
telecommuting, the participant in interview number two said this: so as far as being promoted, uh its
just a question of what positions might become available that I'm qualified for, I mean the fact that I'm
telecommuting now doesnt really, I dont feel it enters, its not a factor (lines 445-450). Another
respondent who felt that promotability was unaffected by telecommuting said this: ...within
(organization) I don't think that (telecommuting) would have anything to do with anything, cause I've
kind of already proven myself, so if I wanted to go for something else, I know that I would be looked at
the same as an equal (interview 8, lines 211-216).
In an attempt to provide an understanding across a broader range of the research respondents, the
chart below, though similar to the chart above, lists participants perceptions on whether or not
telecommuting has affected their role, status, or promotability within their organization. However, this
chart also documents brief explanations, provided by some participants, of their answers.
47


Chart 4.2 Responses to the Major Research Question with Brief Explanations for: Study Population
Study Population
Interview # Role affected by telecommuting? Status affected by telecommuting? Promotability affected by telecommuting?
1 Yes, due to the change (decrease) in interaction with other workers. No No
2 No No No
3 No No No, though promotion might affect telecommutability.
4 Yes, due to the change (decrease) in interaction and communication with other workers. Yes, due to the change (decrease) in interaction and communication with other workers. No
5 Yes, due to their telecommuting work arrangement. No No, though telecommuting would definitely not hurt promotability.
6 No No No
7 Yes, other workers are envious of telecommuting position. Yes, due to the perceived increase in trust from the organization. Yes, affected positively in that the interviewee feels more versatile, and affected negatively in that telecommuting decreases exposure within the organization.
8 Yes, due to the increased responsibilities earned with the increase in production that telecommuting allows. No No, though the interviewee feels that promotability might be affected for other telecommuters.
9 No No, because they are managed by objectives. Yes, negatively affected due do decreased exposure within the organization.
10 Yes, because they feel they are worth more to the organization, and because they feel more invisible in the organization. No, because they are managed by objectives. The interviewee feels that status would be affected for some telecommuters. Yes, negatively affected due to decreased exposure within the organization.
48


Chart 4.2 Responses to the Major Research Question with Brief Explanations for: Study Population
(Cont.)
11 Yes, due to decreased exposure within the organization. Yes, the interviewee feels more respected, and at a higher level. Yes, negatively affected due to decreased exposure within the organization, and positively affected in the future because of increased production, and better ability to manage themselves.
12 No, others in the organization understand the telecommuters role. No, others in the organization understand the telecommuters status. No
13 No, others in the organization understand the telecommuters role. No, others in the organization understand the telecommuters status. Yes, negatively affected due to decreased exposure within the organization.
14 No, because the interviewee maintains interaction with others in the organization. No, though the interviewee is not concerned with status. No, though telecommuting would definitely not hurt promotability.
15 Yes, role has changed due to a perceived increase in status. Yes, the interviewee feels more elite due to telecommuting. Yes, negatively affected due to decreased exposure within the organization.
16 No, others in the organization understand the telecommuters role. No, as long as productivity does not decrease. No
17 No No No, though promotability would eventually be negatively affected due to decreased exposure within the organization.
18 Yes, the interviewee feels more powerful due to a perceived increase in autonomy. Yes, the interviewee feels more powerful due to a perceived increase in autonomy. No, though there are no more positions to be promoted to.
19 Yes, the interviewee feels that it is harder to manager their subordinates due to decreased exposure. Yes, telecommuting looks good to the customers, which is an advantage within the organization. No, though the interviewee feels that for others, promotability would be negatively affected due to decreased exposure within the organization.
49


Chart 4.2 Responses to the Major Research Question with Brief Explanations for: Study Population
(Cont.)
20 No No, the interviewee makes efforts to maintain communication with the organization. No, the interviewee feels that others in the organization understand the telecommuting situation.
21 No No No, though the interviewee feels that for others, promotability would be negatively affected due to decreased exposure within the organization.
22 No No No, due to maintenance of pre-telecommuting production levels.
23 Yes, the interviewee feels that they have more autonomy in their position. No Yes, increased because telecommuting is a valuable skill.
24 No No No
25 No, though others in the organization were envious during the early telecommuting state, they now accept it. No No
26 No Yes, the interviewee feels that their status has risen due to the increase in productivity that telecommuting allows. Yes, positively affected due to the increase in productivity that telecommuting allows.
27 No, others in the organization understand the telecommuters role. No No, the interviewee feels that telecommuting has nothing to do with promotability.
28 No No Yes, negatively affected due to decreased exposure within the organization.
29 Yes, though the interviewee feels that is her role as mother that is strengthened by telecommuting. No No, though there are no positions above them to be promoted to.
50


Chart 4.2 Responses to the Major Research Question with Brief Explanations for: Study Population
(Cont.)
30 No, however, due to the interviewees telecommuting, their subordinates feel they have more autonomy. No No, though there is only one position above them to be promoted to.
31 No, others in the organization understand the telecommuters role. No No, though telecommuting would definitely not hurt promotability.
32 No No Yes, positively affected due to the increase in productivity that telecommuting allows.
As the first three charts in this chapter presented responses to the three aspects of the major
research question for all study participants, the charts below list those same responses, however, these
charts list responses for the several, separate organizations from which this research acquired
respondents.
51


Chart 4.3 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had a
perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: All
Government Offices
All Government Offices
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
1 Yes No No
2 No No No
3 No No No
4 Yes Yes No
6 No No No
12 No No No
20 No No No
21 No No No
22 No No No
23 Yes No Yes
24 No No No
25 No No No
26 No Yes Yes
27 No No No
28 No No Yes
29 Yes No No
30 No No No
31 No No No
32 No No Yes
21% Yes, 79% No
10.5% Yes, 89.5% No
21% Yes, 79% No
52


Chart 4.4 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had a
perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: City
and County of Denver
City and County of Denver
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
6 No No No
12 No No No
20 No No No
21 No No No
22 No No No
23 Yes No Yes
24 No No No
25 No No No
26 No Yes Yes
27 No No No
28 No No Yes
29 Yes No No
30 No No No
31 No No No
32 No No Yes
13.3% Yes, 86.7% No
6.7% Yes, 93.3% No
26.7% Yes, 73.3% No
53


Chart 4.5 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had a
perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: a
Federal Government Office
Federal Government Office
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
1 Yes No No
2 No No No
3 No No No
4 Yes Yes No
50% Yes, 50% No
25% Yes, 75% No
0% Yes, 100% No


Chart 4.6 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had a
perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: All
Private (for profit) Organizations
All Private (for profit) Organizations
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
5 Yes No No
7 Yes Yes Yes
8 Yes No No
9 No No Yes
10 Yes No Yes
11 Yes Yes Yes
13 No No Yes
14 No No No
15 Yes Yes Yes
16 No No No
17 No No No
18 Yes Yes No
19 Yes Yes No
61.5% Yes, 38.5% No
38.5% Yes, 61.5% No 46.2% Yes, 53.8% No
55


Chart 4.7 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had a
perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: Private
Organization A
Private Organization A
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
10 Yes No Yes
13 No No Yes
14 No No No
16 No No No
17 No No No
20% Yes, 80% No
0% Yes, 100% No
40% Yes, 60% No
56


Chart 4.8 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had a
perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: Private
Organization B
Private Organization B
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
11 Yes Yes Yes
15 Yes Yes Yes
100% Yes, 0% No
100% Yes, 0% No
100% Yes, 0% No
57


Chart 4.9 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had a
perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: Other
private organizations (not including A, or B)
Other private organizations (not including A, or B)
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
5 Yes No No
7 Yes Yes Yes
8 Yes No No
18 Yes Yes No
19 Yes Yes No
100% Yes, 0% No
60% Yes, 40% No
20% Yes, 80% No
58


Chart 4.10 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had
a perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: All
Male Respondents
All Male Respondents
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
1 Yes No No
6 No No No
9 No No Yes
12 No No No
15 Yes Yes Yes
19 Yes Yes No
21 No No No
28 No No Yes
37.5% Yes, 62.5% No
25% Yes, 75% No
37.5% Yes, 62.5% No
59


Chart 4.11 Responses to the major research question addressing whether or not telecommuting has had
a perceived effect on the respondents role, status, or promotability within their organization, for: All
Female Respondents
All Female Respondents
Interview Role affected by Status affected by Promotability affected by
# telecommuting? telecommuting? telecommuting?
2 No No No
3 No No No
4 Yes Yes No
5 Yes No No
7 Yes Yes Yes
8 Yes No No
10 Yes No Yes
11 Yes Yes Yes
13 No No Yes
14 No No No
16 No No No
17 No No No
18 Yes Yes No
20 No No No
22 No No No
23 Yes No Yes
24 No No No
25 No No No
26 No Yes Yes
27 No No No
29 Yes No No
30 No No No
31 No No No
32 No No Yes
37.5% Yes, 62.5% No 20.8% Yes, 79.2% No 29.2% Yes, 70.8% No
60


Lettered Code Frequency
During data processing procedures and analyses (see chapter 3), it became clear that patterns in
subjects responses were emerging. As mentioned in chapter three, these phenomena were given
mnemonic codes to aid in identifying patterns of concerns, phenomena or beliefs.
As a way of understanding the concerns of telecommuters, this research noted the frequency with
which these codes appear throughout the transcripts. This portion of the chapter provides a summary
of what are viewed as the most important phenomena expressed during interviews. This information is
based on the frequency of mentioned phenomena.
As above, this information will be provided for all study participants, all government offices, the
city and county of Denver, a federal government office located in Denver, all private organizations,
private organization A, and B, private organizations not including A, or B, all Male respondents, and
all Female respondents.
While there were over one hundred lettered codes, these charts will cover only the twenty most
frequent lettered codes for each of the above mentioned categories. These charts will note: the
category of respondent, the frequency with which the lettered code was mentioned, the lettered code,
and the phenomena or topic the lettered code stands for, which can also be found under data
processing procedures in chapter three. Lettered codes which deal directly with the major research
question for this study will be presented in bold type.
61


Chart 4.12 Lettered Code Frequency, for: Study Participants
Study Participants
Frequency Lettered code Code tenn
119 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
95 TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
67 TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
67 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office distractions
64 IC Interaction has changed
62 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
59 TAUWT Telecommuting allows uninterrupted work time
59 TME Telecommuting is more efficient (than office work)
58 TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important (at the office)
58 ODDP Office distractions decrease productivity
57 DPI (telecommuting) Decreases personal interaction
56 MIT Managerial influence on telecommuting
52 OAE Others are envious (of telecommuting status)
51 LT Like telecommuting
51 RABT Role affected by telecommuting
49 TALF Telecommuting allows life flexibility
44 PNABT Promotability not affected by telecommuting
44 TEC Telecommuters are easy to contact (at home)
44 TIA Telecommuting is advantageous
42 PRC Professional relationships change
62


Chart 4.13 Lettered Code Frequency, for: Government Offices
Government Offices
Frequency Lettered code Code term
87 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
47 TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
44 TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
44 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office distractions
42 ODDP Office distractions decrease productivity
40 TAUWT Telecommuting allows uninterrupted work time
39 TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important (at the office)
36 TME Telecommuting is more efficient
35 IC Interaction has changed
30 DPI (telecommuting) Decreases personal interaction
30 TALF Telecommuting allows for life flexibility
29 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
29 MIT Managerial influence on telecommuting
28 PNABT Promotability not affected by telecommuting
27 TEC Telecommuters are easy to contact (at home)
27 LT Like telecommuting
25 DOT Downsides of telecommuting
25 RNABT Role not affected by telecommuting
24 TIA Telecommuting is advantageous
24 SNABT Status not affected by telecommuting
63


Chart 4.14 Lettered Code Frequency, for: City and County of Denver
City and County of Denver
Frequency Lettered code Code term
71 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
41 TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
36 TAUWT Telecommuting allows uninterrupted work time
30 ODDP Office distractions decrease productivity
29 TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important
28 MIT Managerial influence on telecommuting
28 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office disruptions
26 TME Telecommuting is more efficient
26 TALF Telecommuting allows for life flexibility
24 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
23 TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
23 TEC Telecommuters are easy to contact (at home)
20 MBO Management by objectives
19 OUTR Others understand telecommuting role
19 DOT Downside of telecommuting
18 BT (when they) Began telecommuting
18 RNABT Role not affected by telecommuting
17 SNABT Status not affected by telecommuting
17 PNABT Promotability not affected by telecommuting
16 LT Like telecommuting
64


Chart 4.15 Lettered Code Frequency, for: Federal Government Agency
Federal Government Agency
Frequency Lettered code Code term
23 IC Interaction has changed
21 TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
17 TFW Telecommuting fit the work they were already doing
16 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
16 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office distractions
15 DPI (telecommuting) Decreases personal interaction
14 TIA Telecommuting is advantageous
13 OSNN Office space not necessary
12 ODDP Office distractions decrease productivity
11 LT Like telecommuting
11 RABT Role affected by telecommuting
11 UT Unofficially telecommuting
11 PNABT Promotability not affected by telecommuting
10 GIT Government influence on telecommuting
10 TME Telecommuting is more efficient
10 OAE Others are envious (of telecommuting status)
10 TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important
9 TST Telecommuting saves time
9 PRC Professional relationships change
8 OPTIA Others perceptions taken into account
65


Chart 4.16 Lettered Code Frequency, for: All Private Organizations
All Private Organizations
Frequency Lettered code Code tenn
48 TIP Telecommuting increases production
34 RABT Role affected by telecommuting
33 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
32 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
31 PRC Professional relationships have changed
30 OAE Others are envious (of telecommuting status)
30 PABT Promotability affected by telecommuting
29 IC Interaction has changed
27 DPI (telecommuting) Decreases personal interaction
27 ODUTR Others do not understand telecommuting role
27 MIT Managerial influence on telecommuting
26 TST Telecommuting saves time
24 LT Like telecommuting
23 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office distractions
23 TME Telecommuting is more efficient
23 TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
20 TRD Telecommuting requires discipline
20 TIA Telecommuting is advantageous
19 SABT Status affected by telecommuting
19 TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important
66


Chart 4.17 Lettered Code Frequency, for: Private Organization A
Private Organization A
Frequency Lettered code Code tenn
18 TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
17 MIT Managerial influence on telecommuting
17 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
16 TST Telecommuting saves time
15 TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
15 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
14 PART Promotability affected by telecommuting
13 TME Telecommuting is more efficient
13 ODUTR Others do not understand telecommuting role
12 TALF Telecommuting allows for life flexibility
12 TAUWT Telecommuting allows uninterrupted work time
12 RNABT Role not affected by telecommuting
12 LT Like telecommuting
12 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office distractions
11 IC Interaction has changed
11 PCN Personal contact necessary
11 TEC Telecommuters are easy to contact (at home)
10 MBO Management by objectives
10 RABT Role affected by telecommuting
10 TRS Telecommuting reduces stress
67


Chart 4.18 Lettered Code Frequency, for: Private Organization B
Private Organization B
Frequency Lettered code Code tenn
11 PRC Professional relationships change
10 PABT Promotability affected by telecommuting
9 DPI (telecommuting) Decreases personal interaction
8 OAE Others are envious (of telecommuting status)
7 TIA Telecommuting is advantageous
7 SABT Status affected by telecommuting
6 RABT Role affected by telecommuting
6 IC Interaction has changed
6 TRD Telecommuting requires discipline
5 TST Telecommuting saves time
5 TPA Telecommuter perceives autonomy
5 TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
5 OTCD Organizational/telecommuter communication decreases
4 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
4 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
4 TALF Telecommuting allows for life flexibility
4 MBWA Management by walking around
4 TROPC Telecommuting reduces organizational political communication
3 BT (when they) Began telecommuting
3 ODUTR Others do not understand telecommuter role
68


Chart 4.19 Lettered Code Frequency, for: Private Organizations, not including A, or B
Private Organizations, not including A, or B
Frequency Lettered code Code term
22 TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
18 RABT Role affected by telecommuting
14 PRC Professional relationships change
13 OAE Others are envious (of telecommuting status)
12 IC Interaction has changed
11 ODUTR Others do not understand telecommuting role
10 TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important
10 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
9 LT Like telecommuting
8 SCSRC Superiors and co-workers see role change
8 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
8 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office disruptions
8 SABT Status affected by telecommuting
8 TI Telecommuting interest
8 TME Telecommuting is more efficient
7 SCSSC Supervisors and co-workers see status change
7 MIT Managerial influence on telecommuting
7 ODDP Office distractions decrease productivity
7 PNABT Promotability not affected by telecommuting
6 DDP Do not desire promotion
69


Chart 4.20 Lettered Code Frequency, for: All Male Respondents
All Male Respondents
Frequency Lettered code Code term
30 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
22 TME Telecommuting is more efficient
21 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
20 TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important
20 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office distractions
16 TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
16 OUTR Others understand telecommuting role
14 TAUWT Telecommuting allows uninterrupted work time
14 ODDP Office distractions decrease productivity
12 TRD Telecommuting reduces distance (commute)
11 OAE Others are envious (of telecommuting status)
11 PRC Professional relationships change
11 TIA Telecommuting is advantageous
11 DPI (telecommuting) Decreases personal interaction
10 TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
10 INC Interaction has not changed
10 LT Like telecommuting
10 ONP Office is not private
10 BT (when they) Began telecommuting
10 TEC Telecommuters are easy to contact (at home)
70


Chart 4.21 Lettered Code Frequency, for: All Female Respondents
All Female Respondents
Frequency Lettered code Code term
89 TWA Telecommuting work arrangement
79 TIP Telecommuting increases productivity
57 TDD Telecommuting is duty dependent
55 IC Interaction has changed
47 TAOD Telecommuting avoids office distractions
46 DPI (telecommuting) Decreases personal interaction
46 MIT Managerial influence on telecommuting
45 RABT Role affected by telecommuting
45 TAUWT Telecommuting allows uninterrupted work time
44 TALF Telecommuting allows for life flexibility
44 ODDP Office distractions decrease productivity
41 OIT Organizational influence on telecommuting
41 OAE Others are envious (of telecommuting status)
41 LT Like telecommuting
38 TMNI Telecommuters miss nothing important
38 ODUTR Others do not understand telecommuting role
37 TME Telecommuting is more efficient
34 PNABT Promotability is not affected by telecommuting
34 TEC Telecommuters are easy to contact (at home)
33 TIA Telecommuting is advantageous
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This chapter presented the results of this study in two sections. The first section included findings
relevant to this studys major research question for each of the interviewed organizations. The second
section provided a frequency report of the most often talked about phenomena for each of the
interviewed organizations.
The following chapter, chapter five, provides an interpretation of the findings, discusses the results
of this research, limitations of this study, and proposes areas for future research.
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CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION
This study interviewed thirty two telecommuters in an attempt to gauge perceptions on how their
role, status, and/or promotability have changed in their workplace as a result of telecommuting.
Respondents answered a series of questions addressing these issues, and other telecommuting matters.
Data obtained from these interviews were processed and analyzed. The results of those data were
presented in the previous chapter. This chapter interprets and explains those results, as presented in
chapter four. This chapter will also address the limitations of this study, and suggest areas for future
research.
In interpreting data presented in chapter four, this discussion will first address subjects responses
to whether or not, and/or in what way they feel their role, status, and promotability have been affected
due to telecommuting. Secondly, this discussion will address the most often talked about phenomena
during the interviews as an indication of concerns among the telecommuters involved in this study.
Role
Taken as an entire group, twelve of the thirty two telecommuters interviewed (37.5%) felt that
telecommuting had affected their role in the workplace. This substantial number is the first presented
here which signals that telecommuting causes a perceived effect in the workplace.
The reasons for which subjects felt that their roles had changed are varied, though one was
mentioned more frequently. Of the twelve respondents who felt that their role had been affected by
telecommuting, five felt that it was due to their decreased exposure within the organization (seech. 4).
One respondent who telecommutes often, felt that their role had changed due to decreased interaction
within the organization, and had this to say:
I think I had a different role in that it changed that.. .most of the time people dont
expect to see us, so they dont count on us, they forget sometimes to even call us
about things.. .because were not here, were not part of the same group, and worst
effect is the three or four of us that used to get together in one office that were real
close because we were in the office all together and did the same type of work, now
that were not seeing each other on a regular basis, weve really drifted apart like (my
co-worker) and I, and (my supervisor), you know (my supervisor) has become
extremely separate from us, and communications have suffered a great deal.
(Interview 4, lines 225-244)
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Regular absence from the workplace appears to have great impact on how a telecommuter views
him/herself in their organization. Respondents appear to feel that ones role in the organization is
largely influenced by the frequency with which they personally contact those with whom they work.
From this, then, it appears that the organizational role of an individual is substantially based on
interaction with others. Telecommuting systematically removed these respondents from co-worker
interaction, perhaps altering the relationships which were created before the respondent began
telecommuting. This assertion is supported by the frequency with which those respondents reporting a
shift in role, telecommute. The five respondents who reported perceived role shift, as the result of their
decreased exposure within the organization, all have a high average number of telecommuting days per
month compared to the remainder of study participants (14.25 telecommuting days per month Vs. 8.1
telecommuting days per month).
Interaction with co-workers may not be the most affected aspect of a frequent telecommuters
career however. Two study participants reported telecommuting twenty days per month or more. Each
of these respondents reported a perceived role shift, however, their perceived shift was not the result of
decreased organizational interaction. Apparently, additional responsibilities were imposed on them due
to their substantially increased productivity while telecommuting, and that increase made them feel like
their role was now a more important one (interviews 8, and 15).
Having established that telecommuting is capable of producing a perceived effect on ones role, it
is important to note that the majority of research subjects (62.5%) felt that telecommuting did not have
an affect on their role. While many respondents who felt that telecommuting affected their role
provided explanations for such feelings, the twenty subjects who felt that their role had not changed
provided fewer explanations. Of eight respondents reporting that their role had not changed and
providing explanations for those feelings, four reported that they felt that their role had not changed
because their supervisors and/or co-workers understood telecommuting, and the telecommuters role.
These subjects reported that others in the organization were accustomed to having telecommuting co-
workers, and have learned to operate uninfluenced by the systematic absence of a co-worker. This
would seem to signify that telecommuting requires a period of adaptation by co-workers. After such a
period, operations in an office, or department appear to return to normal as a new method of interacting
with telecommuters is created, practiced, and accepted.
With 62.5% of respondents reporting that their role had not changed, it certainly appears that
telecommuting, while likely requiring a period of adjustment for telecommuters and co-workers alike,
is a work-place option that can be implemented and made to have a minimal negative impact on the
organization. This co-worker acceptance of telecommuters is reflected in this quote, from the
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respondent in interview 6: . .this (telecommuting) is just part of my job, and they (co-workers) see it
as that (lines 458-459). When asked whether or not role has been affected by telecommuting, another
respondent states: not really, I think thats because we have enough other people who telecommute
that its not a (telecommuter name) thing, its a common thing...Im just one of the telecommuting
gang (interview 12, lines 110-115, 132-133). The respondent in interview twenty seven also notes
their co-workers understanding in describing why they feel that their role has not changed as a result of
telecommuting:
.. .so they understand when I say I need to be alone or to telecommute, they
understand why I'm relating that and the other people here, while they may have
never done that.. .they still I think, still can sympathize with that, and say well OK, I
understand that you probably need that, they might not know why,... but they you
know can at least sympathize with that, (lines 72-85)
Another interesting finding of this study is the discrepancy of perceived role change, among
different respondent groups. While 21% of all government employees interviewed felt that their role
had changed, 61.5% of all private sector employees interviewed felt that their role had changed. The
reason for this discrepancy is not easy to speculate. Of the reasons given by government and private
sector employees for why they feel their role has changed, there are no obvious patterns to discern.
Of the four government workers claiming a role shift, two, or 50%, believe it is due to decreased
interaction in the organization. Of the eight private sector workers claiming a role shift, three or 37.5%
believe that decreased interaction is responsible, however, one respondent of this three provided two
reasons for their perceived role shift. Of the remaining government workers (2), individually distinct
answers account for perceived role change. Of the remaining private sector workers (5), distinct
answers again account for perceived role change, and no pattern emerges.
The only explanation this research can provide for this discrepancy is an awareness and acceptance
of alternative work-styles that government organizations in this study, foster. Of the nineteen
government telecommuters interviewed for this study, at least eleven mentioned that either local, or
federal government has programs, or policies in place to foster alternative work styles among workers
where possible, and telecommuting is the most common one. Apparently, government workers have
been informed, educated, and/or exposed to telecommuting to a considerable extent. Therefore, when a
government worker telecommutes, those workers left in the office can interact with that telecommuter
with some base of knowledge and/or experience as to the telecommuting work-style. This knowledge
would seem to limit or reduce the potential problems when interacting with a telecommuter, as each
party understands the work-style.
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As noted above, interaction (or lack thereof) is a determinant of perceived role shift. Interaction is
viewed by telecommuters as having a consequential affect on their role shift. For government
telecommuters, the lack of problems when interacting with office-based co-workers, due to the office-
based workers understanding of telecommuting, creates a lower rate of perceived role shift when
compared to their private sector counterparts. Those interviewed in the private sector did not mention
an organizational program that would educate or inform all workers about the telecommuting work-
style, though one respondent did say that their organization is open to, and encourages telecommuting
(interview 9, lines 163-164). For this reason, when a private sector telecommuter interacts with an
office-based worker, the two are communicating without the same mutual understanding of each others
work-style, or work situation, in comparison with government workers. This lessened degree of work
context understanding may affect interaction among telecommuters and office-based workers, creating
the perception for the telecommuter that their role has undergone some form of change.
Status
Of all subjects interviewed for this research, fewer felt that telecommuting had affected their status
within the organization, when compared with perceived role shift. However, the number perceiving
status shift is still substantial. Seven of thirty two respondents (21.9%) reported that their status in the
organization had changed as a result of telecommuting.
As with role, respondents reported several reasons why they felt that their status had changed,
though one was mentioned more often. The responses of five subjects center around a general feeling
of increased importance in the organization that they can attribute to telecommuting. These five
subjects felt that their status had undergone a positive change, and cited perceptions of trust, respect,
being more elite, and being more autonomous than they were prior to telecommuting. Of the remaining
two respondents who felt that their status had been affected by telecommuting, one felt that their status
had decreased in their organization due to a decrease in interaction and communication with office
based co-workers, and the other respondent felt that their status had increased due to a productivity
increase. The respondent in interview fifteen feels that their status was positively affected as a result of
telecommuting and said this: I think everybody respects you because you are a telecommuter.. .in all
organizations, so thats a high point... (lines 519-523).
The majority of respondents (78.1%) felt that telecommuting had not affected their status. Of the
twenty five subjects who felt that status was not affected, seven provided short explanations for this.
Three respondents reported that as they are managed by their productivity, and as their productivity
increases when they telecommute, their status has not been affected either negatively or positively.
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Another two respondents noted that their status had not changed because their organization views
telecommuters as normal workers, and could adapt.
As with role shift, there is a meaningful discrepancy between the percentage of government
workers who felt their status changed, and the percentage of private sector workers reporting status
shift. For government respondents, 10.5% reported status shift, compared to 38.5% of private sector
subjects who felt that telecommuting had impacted their status.
There are no clear reasons for this discrepancy, though again, responses provide an explanation.
Every private sector respondent who felt their status had shifted (5), reported the general feeling of
increased importance mentioned above. These workers experience some telecommuting related stimuli
which gives them a feeling that they are special, and more important to the organization than before.
The reason for this feeling of being special, and for the higher percentage of status shift among private
sector employees, is not clear. This research proposes that it is again, the awareness and acceptance of
alternative work-styles among government workers, as found by this study, and mentioned above (see
role). As private sector workers do not appear to have had the preparation or experience in dealing
with alternative work-styles such as telecommuting, the co-workers, superiors, and subordinates of
telecommuters in the private sector are more likely to be impressed, surprised, or stirred by this work
style. The interest this would cause would naturally draw attention to telecommuting and to the
telecommuters. From this new attention, it is reasonable to conclude that telecommuters would feel
more important than before. This increased, or new feeling of importance would manifest itself as
responses from telecommuters indicating a change in status as a result of their work-style.
This study does not imply that private sector workers are ignorant to alternative work-styles.
Rather it proposes that government workers (telecommuting and office-based) have had sufficient
amounts of preparation, and/or instruction that allow them to participate in alternative work-styles
without an undue feeling of uniqueness, therefore reporting lower incidences of status shift than private
sector telecommuters.
The government telecommuter in interview twelve states the following about telecommuting:
...its part of our department culture (lines 152-153). This is representative of comments made by
many government subjects, and few private sector employees. The private sector respondent in
interview sixteen notes: .. .its (telecommuting) just something that because there isnt a lot of it in
our particular part of the organization, I dont want to jeopardize what I have first of all, or jeopardize
anybody elses chances of being able to forge the same type of arrangement... (lines 661-667). In
general, the rate of acceptance of telecommuting is considerably higher in the local and federal
government offices visited for this study, than it is in the private sector organizations. This is
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exemplified in a quote taken from the respondent in interview seventeen, who was a subject working in
the private sector:
.. .what I have learned (is) that depending, because I think status is really defined
based on the political pressures in your organization, and depending on those in
power, (they) may perceive that (telecommuting) to be a good thing or a bad thing.
I've found that I have to sense out the perceptions about telecommuting and figure
out how I can still get it done, almost sounds pretty sneaky,... (lines 339-354)
Private sector organizations at this point do not seem to accept and/or embrace the telecommuting
work-style as government organizations do.
Promotabilitv
When asked whether or not they felt that telecommuting had affected their promotability within
their organization, ten of thirty two (31.3%) subjects reported perceptions that promotability had
changed or shifted. For those respondents who felt that promotability had been affected,
telecommuting was viewed as having a negative influence more often than not. Seven of the ten
affected subjects felt that telecommuting affected their promotability in a negative way. All of these
seven respondents felt that their promotability was negatively affected due to the decreased exposure
within the organization. Other researchers have found this telecommuter concern as well, including:
Alvi, McIntyre 24; Atkinson 107; Chaudron 1; Nigro 55; Filipczak 56; Ford, Butts 21; Guiley 29;
Hartman, Stoner, Arora 40; Kroll 23; Olson, Primps 105; Polsky 29; Prystash 98; Rittershaus 72; Steve
38; Yap, Tng 231.
As with role, the regular absence from the workplace that telecommuting fosters, appears to greatly
impact how the telecommuter views him/herself in their organization. Apparently, respondents either
knowingly or not, create an association between interaction with co-workers and their organizational
standing. At this point, it might seem that ones promotability is affected by their interaction patterns,
however, there may be a more appropriate conclusion to draw.
As promotion can only be granted by superiors, the respondents who feel that their promotability
is negatively affected due to decreased exposure within their organization are concluding that their
superiors will use their organizational interaction patterns or habits as factors which influence their
promotability. From this, we may conclude that in the minds of these respondents, their superiors view
them as less promotible either because they will lack the intimate interaction that office-based workers
have, and therefore may simply not know or understand what is going on in the office on a day to day
basis, or because they simply will not be that well known to superiors due to their regular absence.
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Each of these conclusions is supported by data gathered during interviews and by other researchers:
Alvi, McIntyre 24; Atkinson 107; Chaudron 1; Nigro 55; Filipczak 56; Ford, Butts 21; Guiley 29;
Hartman, Stoner, Arora 40; Kroll 23; Olson, Polsky 29; Primps 105; Prystash 98; Rittershaus 72; Steve
38; Yap, Tng 231.
As an example, when asked whether or not their promotability had been affected by
telecommuting, the subject in interview nine said this: I could see how it could be, thats why I like to
keep some type of contact with the office (lines 231-233). The respondent in interview ten said this
about telecommuting and promotability:
I think it would affect people that were trying to rapidly climb the corporate
ladder.. .its not the difference in the person thats participating in telecommuting, its
the people that are back in the traditional office that dont change, and thats where
perception is truth to a lot of people, and if youre not there, youre not working, and
youre not a part of the company... (lines 425-448)
Telecommutings relationship with promotability garnered more pensive comments: .. .when
youre telecommuting, youre kind of like out of sight, out of mind, so therefore when you go try for a
position like a management position within your company, then theyre just kind of like well, who are
you, and what can you do? (interview 11, lines 23-29).
I believe you need to be seen to be promotible... I believe that within (respondent
organization) even though its more advanced than some companies, you need to also
be seen.. .you need to attend meetings.. .and you need to actually interact. I've seen
some people who telecommuted a lot and no one knew who they were anymore.
(interview 13, lines 176-187)
When asked why telecommuting had a negative effect on promotability, the respondent in
interview fifteen said: because youre not exposed.. .when I was working in the office, you get a lot
more involved with some of the activities in the office there, so youre more exposed to management,
whereas when youre telecommuting like the term they use the lone eagle,.. .they forget Im here
(lines 338-348).
The subject in interview sixteen also felt that telecommuters fall into the out of sight, out of mind
syndrome (lines 358-368), as did the subject in interview nineteen: .. .theres always the danger of
you not being really present kind of in the fire so to speak to where you may not be perceived as a real
active player which might degrade your opportunity for promotion (lines 188-193).
From the data provided by the respondents, the absence in the workplace caused by telecommuting
clearly affects ones perception of promotability. In fact, as with role, the seven respondents who
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reported perceived promotability shift as the result of their decreased exposure within the organization,
all have a high average number of telecommuting days per month compared to the study participants
who felt that promotability was not affected by telecommuting (11.6 telecommuting days per month Vs.
6.8 telecommuting days per month).
Apparent from these respondents, is that being out of the organization on a regular basis either
creates doubts among superiors about a telecommuters advancement potential, and/or allows the
telecommuter to slowly slip from the minds of superiors as they are not physically present every day.
The number of days per month one telecommutes seems to affect ones perceived promotability.
Of the ten telecommuters who felt that their promotability had been affected, five felt that
telecommuting had a positive affect (two respondents noted that telecommuting had both a positive and
a negative affect on promotability). Three of these five felt that the increases in production that
telecommuting allows would benefit their promotability, and the remaining two felt that telecommuting
made them more versatile workers, thus better candidates for promotion. Thirty of the thirty two
respondents in this study made reference to an increase in productivity while telecommuting. This
increase in productivity will be discussed later in this chapter.
As with role and status, the majority of telecommuters interviewed felt that their promotability was
not affected. Twenty two (68.7%) of the respondents felt that promotability had not been affected as a
result of telecommuting. Though many did not provide explanations for their views, fourteen did add
comments to their answers. Four of these respondents felt that although they did not feel that their
promotability was affected, they believed that other telecommuters promotability might be affected
due to decreased exposure within the organization. Three of these fourteen said that although their
promotability was not affected in either a positive or a negative way, they felt that telecommuting could
not negatively affect their promotability, though it could help.
Similar to role and status, government telecommuters and their private sector counterparts
recorded substantially different rates of perceived promotability shift. Of government respondents 21%
felt that their promotability was affected while 46.2% of private sector telecommuters perceived a shift.
While this is the narrowest discrepancy margin among role, status, and promotability, this gap of 25.2%
is viewed as substantial. Also, of the four government respondents who felt that telecommuting had
affected their promotability, three felt that it was a positive effect. This is compared to the six private
respondents who felt that telecommuting had affected their promotability, all of whom cited negative
effects (though two cited negative and positive effects). The private sector is approaching
telecommuting from a distinct angle when compared to government.
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This study has collected no data that would indicate that the difference among government and
private sector respondents, who feel that their promotability has been affected by telecommuting, exists
for any reason other than the awareness and acceptance of alternative work-styles that has been found
in responses from government telecommuters. This is the same rationale provided by this study for the
government and private sector discrepancies concerning role, and status shift as well.
Summary of Role. Status, and Promotability
This study has found that telecommuting is capable of producing a perceived shift in ones role,
status, and promotability within an organization. These shifts concerning role affected 37.5% of those
interviewed, while the shifts concerning status and promotability affected 21.9%, and 31.3% of those
interviewed respectively.
The majority of participants felt that telecommuting did not affect these organizational variables.
Of those who felt that role was not affected, 75% were government telecommuters. Of those who felt
that status was not affected, 68% were government telecommuters, and of those who did not perceive a
promotability shift, 68.2% worked in local or federal government.
Of those who felt that their role and promotability had changed, the primary reason was their
decreased exposure within their organization with superiors and/or co-workers. Their regular absence
from the office prevented them from being as well informed of organizational and/or departmental
concerns, as office-based workers. This absence also perpetuated an out of sight, out of mind
outlook of telecommuters among supervisors, according to subjects responses. These respondents
averaged a higher number of telecommuting days per month than did the unaffected respondents, and
represented the private sector more than the government sector. Government sector respondents
reported a high incidence of programs or training designed to inform the government worker about
alternative work-styles, such as telecommuting. This acclimation is proposed here as being responsible
for the government sectors lack of perceived role, status, and promotability shift, when compared with
the private sectors perceived shift.
Of those who felt that their status had changed, a substantial number of respondents attributed this
to a general increased feeling of importance. The majority of those whose status was affected
represented the private sector, as with role and promotability. This study proposes that this increased
feeling of importance arose as a result of the private sector not being as well acclimated to
telecommuters and the telecommuting work-style, as the government sector. Telecommuters in the
private sector were thus viewed as uncommon workers, and the attention of office-based workers to the
uniqueness of telecommuters, made them feel more important than before.
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Frequency of Discussed Phenomena
As discussed in chapter three, statements made by respondents were assigned mnemonic codes
during the data processing procedure. These codes symbolize phenomena discussed during the
interview. In chapter four, a frequency analysis was provided, noting the twenty most often discussed
phenomena for each category of interview respondent. This section will discuss some of the results
presented in chapter four, for all thesis subjects, and compare them among government and private
sector responses.
An understanding of how these codes were created is essential in order to most accurately
understand the codes frequency relevance. As a respondent talked about a certain phenomena, role
shift for example, those statements were tagged or coded with codes such as: RABT, which stands for:
Role affected by telecommuting. After all interviews were coded, a frequency analysis of all codes was
conducted in order to assess which phenomena were talked about most often.
If a respondent felt the need or desire to repeat a phrase about role shift later in the interview, that
statement received a separate RABT tag. Thus, it is possible that while a respondents interview
transcript notes five occurrences of the code: RABT, that subject may have only made three distinct
statements concerning role shift, and repeated them throughout the course of the interview. Likewise, if
a subject mentioned early on during the interview that their role had shifted, and the researcher verified
that point sometime later in the interview, that same, single point will have received two tags of RABT.
Therefore, this study does not place extreme importance on the frequency with which all codes
were mentioned. Several factors could have potentially influenced the frequency with which a
phenomenon was mentioned. Rather, this study uses the frequency analysis as a tool to gain a general
understanding of which topics were most often discussed among different respondent groups, and to
draw conclusions concerning telecommuting where possible.
Note that all of the twenty most popular codes will not be discussed. Some codes are closely
related to others, and in the discussion of one, others will be mentioned. Once a codes importance has
been noted in relation to another code, it may not receive a separate discussion. Also, some codes,
though mentioned often, do not reveal important phenomena, and will not be discussed in detail (TWA
for example).
Discussion of Code Frequency for all Study Participants
The most often mentioned phenomena throughout the entire study was ones telecommuting work
arrangement (TWA). This code is not viewed here as being meaningful, as any reference to the
procedures a respondent undertakes in order to telecommute was labeled with this code. This study
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does not propose that in general, respondents viewed their telecommuting work arrangement as
unusually special or important, but simply that such arrangements were often mentioned to create
context for interview topics, or to explain responses.
The next most often mentioned phenomena, telecommuting increases productivity, is viewed as
being important. Only two of the thirty two respondents (6.25%) did not mention that telecommuting
allowed them an increase of productivity. One of the earliest benefits advertised by proponents and
researchers, was that telecommuting increases productivity (Atkinson 105; Chaudron 1; Currid 64;
Filipczak 55; Filipczak (2) 56; Ford, McLaughlin 67; Guiley 27; Hecquet; Jacobs, Van Sell 19; Kelly
3; Maynard 61; Moskowitz 85; Nigro 54; Polsky 28; Steve 38). This study verifies that claim, and also
identifies the cause for such gain. The fourth (TAOD), seventh (TAUWT), and tenth (ODDP) most
frequent codes all provide insight as to how telecommuting increases productivity. These codes stand
for: Telecommuting avoids office distractions, Telecommuting allows uninterrupted work time, and
Office distractions decrease productivity, respectively. Distractions in the work place are so prevalent,
that all but one of the respondents reported at least one of these four distraction related codes (TIP,
TAOD, TAUWT, ODDP). Ford and McLaughlin also note distractions in the workplace as detrimental
to productivity (70).
Telecommuting provides these respondents with an opportunity to work more steadily, that is,
without the number of distractions inherent in an office setting. Here are several excerpts of what some
respondents said about office distractions:
Actually, if I can be frank, when I was in the office, I was meeting to death.. ..just meeting,
meeting, meeting, meeting, and I wasnt getting anything done (interview 1, lines 170-179).
. .a lot of times working here in the office is very distracting, theres a lot of noise and people...
(interview 2, lines 175-177).
.. .the quiet and the fewer distractions (of telecommuting) allows me to concentrate on things
better... (interview 2, lines 817-820).
.. .even now that I have a private office with a door on it, I could never sit here and do an
employee evaluation, from work, I have to do those things at home (interview 6, lines 95-99).
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. .if I'm working on an evaluation, I can accomplish it in two hours, it maybe would take me six
hours here at the office, simply because of the interruptions (interview 6, lines 509-513).
What I like about telecommuting is that I can get a block of time, and just focus on
something.. .life in the cubicle at the office, typically just doesnt lend itself to that.. .things will just
simply pop up... (interview 12, lines 35-48).
The respondents in this study overwhelmingly agree on telecommutings productivity benefit. This
benefit is so influential, that as mentioned in the previous section, and as presented in the role, status,
promotability chart with brief explanations in chapter four, this productivity gain alone accounts for
perceptions of role, status, and promotability shift in some cases.
Of all data collected and analyses conducted, no other result of this research is as clear as this:
Due to its reduction of office-based distractions, telecommuting allows for an increase in ones
productivity.
Another important, and often mentioned phenomenon among all study participants, is that
telecommuting is duty dependent (TDD). That is, there are certain job tasks or duties which lend
themselves well to telecommuting, and there are tasks that do not. Many other researchers have noticed
this as well (Chaudron 1; Filipczak 54; Ford, Butts 19,22; Jacob, Van Sell 20; Kelly 5; Kroll 20;
Moskowitz 84; Steve 36). This phenomena was at times closely associated with the increase in
production, as respondents would mention that the tasks that they would do at home were duties that
required large amounts of concentration, and/or extended periods of time to complete. A quote from
the respondent in interview six notes this: .. .but the telecommute day was begun so that I could have
(a) designated day during the week to do the supervisory type of functions that required evaluations,
personal write ups with employees, thought processing types of projects... (lines 25-31). Another
respondent notes: The type of work that I do involves a lot of computer activity because I create
methods, it takes a lot of research, it takes a lot of formulating in your mind.. .1 work nicely when its
real quiet and doing it at home...I can get more done (interview 14, lines 7-15).
Many telecommuters also noted this phenomena outside of the increased productivity context, as
the respondent in interview two did: .. .as long as I'm doing this duty, Ill be doing it (telecommuting),
but if these duties change which they could.. .it just might not be conducive anymore for me to do this
at home... (lines 593-601). Another subject said: There are some divisions or sections of the
(organization) like the (workers) who very easily can do their work at home and in fact work at home,
maybe work at home three or four days a week and only come in one day a week (interview 6, lines
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628-633). The respondent in interview nine also believes that telecommuting is duty dependent:
...basically my job easily lends itself to it (telecommuting) since I program, and as long as I've got a
phone line, I can get in and work on whatever systems I need... (lines 8-11).
The next often mentioned comment among all thesis subjects relates to how telecommuting can
change, influence, or otherwise impact interaction with office-based workers (IC). This code referred
to any change in the telecommuters interactions with the organization, as a result of telecommuting.
An example of this is provided by respondent one, mentioning that their telecommuting has, to some
degree, encouraged that department meetings take place via phone lines, as a teleconference (lines 191-
194). Telecommuting allowed respondent one to effectively work from home, and visualize a different
way to hold meetings. When the first teleconference was held, her/his interaction with the organization
had changed. S/he now had a new medium of interaction that could be attributed to telecommuting.
This code also applies to instances in which the interaction change was smaller scale. Respondent
four notes that as s/he telecommuted, they no longer had a place in the group at work (lines 212-213).
They stated : . .because I am a real social person and I miss that interaction to a point,.. .(my
supervisor) and I were personal friends I think to a point, and we arent anymore (lines 253-257).
Respondents also noted interaction changes which were not so dramatic: .1 guess.. .what I see
happening is that I'm getting a little (more) out of the loop all of the time.. .I'm feeling a little more
removed from the day to day office operation... (interview 5, lines 213-219). In this study, a majority
of respondents noted that their interaction with co-workers, superiors, or other organizational personnel
had changed due to telecommuting. The frequency with which this code was mentioned is important
for noting how far reaching telecommutings effects really are. In this study, telecommuting is shown
to impact working relationships throughout the organization. Twenty of the thirty two respondents
noted that telecommuting is capable of changing interaction in the workplace. This phenomenon was
also related to DPI, and PRC, or Decrease of personal interaction and Professional relationships
change, respectively. DPI, and PRC are forms of IC, though they more specifically identify the type
of interaction that has undergone change.
Twenty five people mentioned the next code, organizational influence on telecommuting (OIT),
either explicitly, or implicitly. Comments concerning the organizations influence on telecommuting
covered a broad range of topics. OIT was used as a code if someone were to talk about any of the
following topics: pilot telecommuting programs, in-office working conditions of telecommuters,
supervisor/co-worker influence on telecommuting, organizational telecommuting policies, formal and
informal acceptance of telecommuting throughout the organization, union influence on telecommuting,
organizational politics that affect telecommuting, some promotional concerns for telecommuters,
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departmental/organizational socialization, and other phenomena in which telecommuting or
telecommuters were in some way impacted by the organization or its actions.
This code is also noteworthy for demonstrating the extent within an organization to which
telecommuting reaches. The frequent appearance of this code showed that telecommuting is not an
isolated work arrangement among worker and department. Telecommuting in fact becomes part of the
organizational system, impacting and being impacted by numerous organizational processes. A solitary
organizational telecommuter may be able to keep impact to a minimum, however, once others in a
department find out about telecommuting, many want to participate, quickly creating organization-wide
effects (interview 7, lines 63-67; interview 9, lines 162-164; interview 16, lines 661-668).
The code which represents Telecommuting is more efficient, or TME, was also mentioned many
times, often in conjunction with TIP, TLA, and other codes (TST, TSM, TSE, TSD) which represent
telecommutings ability to provide productive work time, with decreased investment in terms of dollars,
time, effort, etcetera. This code was usually mentioned when respondents would attempt to sum up the
benefits of telecommuting. Telecommuting simplified the lives of nearly all respondents, which would
then realize untapped resources (saved time, money, reduced stress), and could use those to produce
more if they chose.
TMNI, or Telecommuters miss nothing important was mentioned roughly the same number of
times as TME, though may be more important to this study. Twenty eight of thirty two (87.5%)
respondents mentioned that telecommuting does not filter out important events or messages between
the organization and the telecommuter. Respondents noted that any message or happening of
significance was quickly relayed to them, keeping them informed of organizational occurrences. This
was often mentioned along with TEC, or Telecommuters are easy to contact. This easily achieved
communication between the organization and respondents that allows a telecommuter to be so well
informed, thus the high incidence of TMNI.
Managerial influence on telecommuting (MIT) was another often mentioned phenomenon
among respondents. Similar to OIT, MITs frequent occurrence is a signal that management is
becoming involved in the telecommuting work arrangement. As this code was applied only when a
respondent mentioned a superior influence, these many comments indicate an active role on the part of
managers. This study did not distinguish whether or not that influence promoted or discouraged
telecommuting, though the majority of MIT occurrences related to the way in which managers
supervise telecommuters, and to the need to keep open communication with managers due to, and
concerning the telecommuting arrangement. This open communication included: verifying eligible
telecommute days, providing telecommute work records/logs, and other administrative responsibilities,
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and was also found to be important by other researchers: (Alvi, McIntyre 23,24; Barnes, K. 10;
Canadian Manager 19,30; Chaudron 6; Filipczak 55; Ford, McLaughlin 69; Guiley 29; Hartman,
Stoner, Arora 37; Hecquet 58; Jacobs, Van Sell 2; Kroll 23; Murphey 62; Nigro 56; Rittershaus 73;
Steve 38; Young 20).
The next code, while not the most often mentioned, seemed to represent the most important trait of
telecommuting to some respondents. TALF stands for Telecommuting allows for life flexibility, and
seemed to be what many respondents were most grateful for. Many telecommuters mentioned that their
work-style allowed them to begin work at whatever time they pleased, and end when they pleased, as
long as they had worked the requisite number of hours per day. This code was often mentioned with
TRS, or Telecommuting Reduces Stress. Both of these phenomena have also been reported in other
research as well: Filipczack 55; Ford, Butts 20; Ford, McLaughlin 70; Hartman, Stoner, Arora 39;
Jacobs, Van Sell 18,19; and Trent, Smith, Wood 1313. What this allowed them was the luxury of
sleeping late on days they wanted to; they just finished working later in the day, taking breaks in the
middle of the day to run errands or relax; again finishing later, and freed up commuting time to be used
as desired.
Respondents mentioned that telecommuting allowed them to pick up their children from school, to
enjoy middle of the day activities outside, to allow home repairmen to work in their home while being
there to monitor repairs, to be able to throw a load of laundry in the washing machine, and other
activities. This study will not condone nor condemn any of those activities, as under the proper
circumstances, and with the knowledge of the organization, all of these practices and more can be done
while still allowing the telecommuter to be more productive at home than in the office. In fact, most
telecommuters who mentioned extra-professional activities during the day also reported keeping track
of working hours to ensure that their employing organization does not receive less than optimal
performance from their at-home employee. This study recognizes the appreciation that respondents
had for the ability to do these things. Telecommuting provided them with a flexibility in their life that
reduced stress, saved money, saved time, and increased productivity.
The last code to be discussed here, OAE, represents a very interesting finding of this study.
Others are envious (of telecommuting position), was a code applied to any respondent who
mentioned that they had perceived that either co-workers or superiors were jealous of them in that they
are allowed to telecommute. Though this phenomenon was not originally included in the data
gathering instrument, twenty four of the thirty two respondents mentioned that their telecommuting had
caused others to be envious. The frequency with which this bit of information was offered up by
respondents was a genuine surprise to the researcher.
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Respondents were quick to note that such envy never caused serious problems for the
telecommuter, aside from one or two cases. Incidences of envy were most often reported as comments
made by co-workers which were decoded by the telecommuter as an envious statement of their work-
style. Many telecommuters reporting envy mentioned that they were not affected negatively by such
emotions, almost as if attempting to avoid the have nots spoiling their much appreciated (and
sometimes hard won) status. Many of these same respondents were quick to mention that of those
whom they perceived to be envious, telecommuting would not fit their work duties (TDD,
Telecommuting is duty dependent), in what appeared to be an attempt to shuck perceived blame or
guilt of their co-workers ineligibility to telecommute.
The frequency with which respondents noted envy among co-workers has implications for the
future of telecommuting. If telecommuting is to be successfully implemented into an organization, all
personnel should be informed of this new change, and be made aware of what types of positions will be
eligible to apply for telecommuting status. Clearly a receptionist can not consider telecommuting in
conjunction with their job, however, it should be the organization which informs them of this, not
another telecommuter, once confronted by the receptionist. While this study does not propose
organization-wide telecommuting seminars, it is important that the organization provide information
concerning who is eligible, and procedures for application to a telecommuting program for any
employee to obtain. This responsibility to inform the remainder of the organizations population of
these matters should not fall on telecommuters. The organization should accept accountability for its
telecommuting program/s.
Comparison of Code Frequency for Government and Private Sector Respondents
As has been demonstrated in the above discussions of role, status, and promotability, an important
distinction separates the point of view from which government and private sector organizations
approach telecommuting. As mentioned earlier, this study proposes that due to a higher level of
telecommuting knowledge, gained from a more formalized approach, local and federal government
workers understand the personal and organizational dynamics of telecommuting to a greater extent than
do private sector workers. This discussion briefly compares code frequency for these two groups in an
attempt to gain a more clear understanding of this distinction.
Increase in productivity (TIP), mentioned above as the clearest result this research produced, is
mentioned very often in both classes, government, and private. These two classes clearly agree on this
increase.
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