When Working from Home Changes Work at the Office: Measuring the Impact of Teleworking on Organizations

Abstract:

The last decade has seen increased experimentation in how and where work happens.  This is especially true in the US public sector where pressures to reduce costs have led to more opportunities to work from home.  Using eight years of administrative data at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), this study evaluates the impact of instituting a teleworking scheme from an organizational perspective.  I find that teleworking not only has significant effects on performance and retention of teleworkers, it also affects those who stay behind, those who choose to join the organization, and the nature of the work day. Teleworkers display reduced productivity but increased retention. More surprisingly, having more teleworking peers increases productivity for those who stay in the office, but it also increases their sick leave, a proxy for burnout. Both teleworkers and non-teleworkers change the amount of time they spend on different tasks once more of their peers work from home.  Last, I find some suggestive evidence that teleworking may be causing negative selection into the agency.  Ultimately, teleworking schemes affect organizations beyond their direct effect on teleworkers and these additional effects must be incorporated into the overall calculation of whether teleworking works for organizations.

Last updated on 07/28/2016