- Emotional stability and autonomy may be predictors of whether an employee can thrive in remote-work situations, according to Baylor University researchers. In two studies involving more than 400 adult workers, a research team measured each worker's autonomy (level of independence), strain (defined as fatigue, dissatisfaction and disengagement) and emotional stability. The team concluded that employers should consider workers' well-being in providing remote opportunities.
- Published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, researchers found: 1) autonomy is necessary to protect remote employees' well-being and help them avoid strain; 2) employees who said they have lots of autonomy and were emotionally stable seemed to thrive the best in remote-work situations; and 3) those who reported having a high level of autonomy, but lower levels of emotional stability, seemed to be more prone to strain.
- Sara Perry, lead author of the study and assistant professor of management at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, said employees with less emotional stability might not want or need autonomy, which could be why they don't handle remote work as well as others. Perry recommended that employers provide these workers with more support and resources in the event that they need to work remotely.
Studies on the popularity of remote-work options among workers have been somewhat conflicting. According to one 2017 survey, 74% of employees said they would leave their current jobs for others offering remote-work opportunities, while a 2018 Randstad survey showed 62% of the workers preferred to work in-office. But industry trends point to workers wanting more flexibility, and that includes remote-work options. The challenge for employers is deciding how to best support those who decide to take advantage of remote work.
Due to the nature of remote work, employers may miss signs of strain or even burnout among remote workers, who sometimes put in longer hours than when they worked onsite, struggle with trying to keep personal and work-related duties separate, or feel isolated from co-workers. Gregory Besner, CultureIQ's founder and CEO, previously told HR Dive that employers can help remote workers, including "road warriors" (those who frequently travel), by training managers to look for possible signs of depression or burnout, assigning them mentors to whom they can communicate frequently, and engaging them in as many onsite activities as possible.
As demand for flexibility grows, flexible work schedules could become the default for many positions. HR may want to consider drafting flexible, transparent policies that specify which positions are eligible for such arrangements and which tools remote workers need to be successful.