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Does Telecommuting Hurt Careers?

Does Telecommuting Hurt Careers?

March 2, 2020
The answer is no; telecommuters and non-telecommuters receive an equal number of promotions.

There has always been a suspicion that despite the strong work-life balance that telecommunting enables, it can adversely impact one’s career trajectory.

Well it turns out that’s not true.

New research from Timothy D. Golden, a professor  at  the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and recently published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, found that rather than suffering career consequences, telecommuters and non-telecommuters receive an equal number of promotions.

“Although telecommuting has experienced rapid growth, some workers are reluctant to try telecommuting for fear that it will hurt their career,” Golden said. “This research helps answer that critical question: Does it hurt your career if you telecommute? My study shows that it depends heavily on the employee’s work context.”

Golden found that a key determinant in the success of telecommuters receiving promotions was the prevalence of telecommuting in their workplace. Telecommuters were promoted more when they worked in offices where working from home was widely accepted, yet in offices where few people telecommuted, those employees received fewer promotions.

While telecommuters may rise in the ranks at the same rate as their office-bound counterparts, Golden observed that employees working from home don’t earn the same bump in pay.

However, if telecommuters signaled a “devotion” to the workplace by working additional hours outside of normal working hours, his analysis indicated that they benefited in terms of both promotions and salary growth.

Golden also determined that it was not simply the fact that an employee telecommuted that mattered. The amount of telecommuting per week is also a key component of an employee’s advancement.

Moreover, he found that face time matters.

Even when an employee telecommuted a large percentage of their work week, telecommuters who had more in-person contact with supervisors received higher pay increases.

Golden used a sample of more than 400 employees matched with corporate data on promotion and salary growth.

“In this study, I wanted to use objective data — actual promotions and salary increases — rather than simply rely on survey responses, as had been done in previous research,” Golden said. “In this way, we can begin to uncover the true impact of telecommuting on fundamental career outcomes, such as promotions and salary growth over time.”

Golden is an expert in the field of telework and telecommuting, studying this field for more than 20 years.

“Previous research has tended to treat all telecommuters as one homogeneous group, and my research suggests that telecommuting is not a one-size-fits-all work arrangement,” Golden said. “Telecommuting arrangements are often unique, and differences in these arrangements must be understood and taken into account when determining how best to be successful. This study suggests contextual factors are especially important to consider when determining telecommuting’s effect on promotions and salary growth.”

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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