The idea of working from home sounds great – but be aware of the downside. In this episode of The Psych Files I talk about what factors influence your job satisfaction and motivation when you work from home. I also discuss the interesting concept of “emotional labor” – what is it like when you know your boss is watching you and judging whether you are “acting happy” to customers? What’s the cost to you of acting in a way that is contrary to how you actually feel?
The Psychological Costs and Benefits of Working Remotely
- Can work in your pajamas (see Disadvantages). Decreased cost of work clothes
- Decreased cost of travel, commuting time and gas
- Increased flexibility (can easily pick up the kids)
- Can take a break any time you want (kind of)
- Can get a sandwich (potential for decreased cost of lunch)
- Can play with your car or dog
- Can take naps – and research shows that a short 20 minute or so nap solidifies memories and makes you more productive (nap-taking at a typical workplace usually violates work norms
- You can work in your pajamas
- Fewer boundaries between personal and work life
- You could easily work many more hours because you could start earlier in the day
- Cost: you need a computer, cell phone, internet access, need for an office (who pays for this?)
Impact on Job Satisfaction and Motivation
Equity Theory and Social Comparison: problems arise when we try to compare ourselves to other workers: it’s no longer easy to see what your co-workers are doing. It’s not easy for your boss either.
- we can’t see when they come in to work, and we can’t see when they leave
- can’t see what they’re doing as we used to when we passed by a co-workers office
- can’t see how many breaks our co-workers are taking
It is common, when we make comparisons to our co-workers, for us to underestimate how hard they work and overestimate how hard we work. The chances for perceptions of inequity increase, and along with it job dissatisfaction.
Managers of remote workers need to make an extra effort to make sure not only that work is distributed fairly, but also that their employees’ perceptions of their co-workers are accurate.
Individuals who have earned an M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology might be more likely to offer you the chance to work from home, since they understand how working remotely can aid productivity for some people.
In particular, managers who have studied things like workplace diversity, organizational effectiveness, organizational development, and human capital development might value the opportunity to have remote workers within their organizations.
That is not to say that managers without an advanced degree on the subject would be unwilling to permit employees to work off-site, but those who have this additional knowledge might have a better understanding of its benefits.
“Emotional Labor”, or Surface Acting
From Annie Murphy-Paul:
Surface acting is when front line service employees, the ones who interact directly with customers, have to appear cheerful and happy even when they’re not feeling it.This kind of faking is hard work—sociologists call it “emotional labor”—and researchshows that it’s often experienced as stressful. It’s psychologically and even physically draining; it can lead to lowered motivation and engagement with work, and ultimately to job burnout.
…let me suggest that companies take another tack. Train workers well, so that they satisfy their customers with good service. Offer them congenial working conditions, so that they’re glad to be at work. Allow them more personal control over how they do their jobs (research shows this can buffer the stress imposed by surface acting). And provide them with opportunities to develop genuinely warm relationships with managers, coworkers, and customers—so that employees have something real to smile about…