For over a year, I worked almost exclusively from my tiny apartment in Harlem. Aside from trips into an office every six weeks or so, my work schedule and surroundings were mostly left up to me. On some days, I would fly through assignments and personal tasks with unusual efficiency. But on other days, telecommuting meant working from the time I woke up until the wee hours of the morning with no breaks, or spending entire days seemingly accomplishing nothing other than making headway on my Netflix queue.
While my own lack of self discipline likely played a role in my frenzied schedule, a recent paper authored by the professors Tammy D. Allen, Timothy D. Golden, and Kristen M. Shockley, shows that the results of my telecommuting experiment were pretty typical. They found that in 2014, about 25 million people worked remotely at least one day per month. And for most people, working remotely was a mixed bag.
Telecommuting has some definite advantages. Allowing workers a choice in where and how they work can increase employee loyalty and job satisfaction, and may reduce turnover. Those who have the option of working outside of the office also reported somewhat lower levels of stress and exhaustion. And studies have suggested that teleworkers tend to get higher performance evaluations. The list goes on: Allowing people to work away from a company’s main office means increased opportunities for those who work in rural areas and those with disabilities. It can also help the environment, as more people are able to eliminate lengthy commutes.