Study: Telecommuters leaving cubicle farmers lonely

How you feel about a new study on telecommuting might well depend on whether you’re anxious to get back to the workplace today after the holiday break, or whether you’d like to stay put and work from home.

The research says the bosses should start thinking about the people left in the cubicle farm when they allow people to telecommute, the New York Times says.

A George Mason University and Boston College survey of Fortune 100 companies in the Silicon Valley says employees who chose to work in the office are lonely and disconnected.

According to his study, the decision to work from home became contagious, extending beyond the people who chose it because they truly wanted or needed the flexibility. In short, more people started working from home because everyone else was doing it. And so the office became even more desolate than it already was. One manager said that “in some ways, teamwork no longer existed” at the company after the more flexible policy was enacted.

It is true that communication technology like email, instant messaging and Skype can make up for a lack of physical connectedness, Professor Rockmann said, and agreeing on a consistent form of communication across a team is especially important. But interacting in the same physical space builds a level of depth and trust that simply is not available with other methods, he said, partly because people are better able to pick up on nonverbal behavior.

A professor says it’s not a condemnation of telecommuting, but a warning that bosses need to consider the whole “team” and not just the telecommuter in deciding how far to take the work-life balance focus.