We all think that remote-work is stress-free and a ticket to independence and freedom. This is not necessarily the case for many people. According to management researchers, the ideal people for remote-work opportunities are those with high emotional stability and autonomy.
Researchers from Baylor University and California State University, Northridge, carried out a study on remote-work and how it can affect workers’ well-being. They also tried to identify what type of people are best-suited for working from home, or at least away from the office.
Sara Perry and colleagues wrote about their study in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology (citation below). Lead author, Perry, is an Assistant Professor of management at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.
The other co-authors were Cristina Rubino and Emily Hunter. Rubino is a Professor at the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, California State University, Northridge. Hunter is an Associate Professor at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.
Apart from examining the impact of remote-work on employee well-being, the authors also suggest several strategies. Specifically, strategies that could help managers provide remote-work opportunities that are valuable to the company and the employee.
People often use the term ‘teleworking‘ when talking about remote work. It means working at home, in a designated work center, or a cafe. Specifically, it means working away from the normal place of work, i.e., away from the office.
Remote-work and employee well-being
The authors wrote:
“Any organization, regardless of the extent to which people work remotely, needs to consider well-being of their employees as they implement more flexible working practices.”
In this study, the researchers carried out two studies that included 403 working adults. They measured each worker’s autonomy, strain, and emotional stability.
Autonomy refers to their level of independence, while strain the authors defined as exhaustion, disengagement, and dissatisfaction.
Prof. Perry said that emotional stability “captures how even keeled someone is or, on the opposite end, how malleable their emotions are. An example would be if something stressful happens at work, a person who is high on emotional stability would take it in stride, remain positive and figure out how to address it. A person low on emotional stability might get frustrated and discouraged, expending energy with those emotions instead of on the issue at hand.”
Remote-work – study findings
The researchers found that:
– Autonomy is crucial to protecting the well-being of employees. Autonomy also helps them avoid strain.
– Those that thrive in remote-work positions are the ones that report high levels of autonomy. They also have high levels of emotional stability.
– Employees in a remote-work environment with lower levels of emotional stability seem to be more susceptible to strain.
Study challenges previous studies
Prof. Perry said that their study contradicts previous research. Previous research says that autonomy is a universal need that we all possess.
According to this latest study, some people may not need or want that much autonomy in their work. Specifically, people with lower emotional stability.
The authors wrote:
“This lower need for autonomy may explain why less emotionally stable employees don’t do as well when working remotely, even when they have autonomy.”
Remote-work – suggestions for managers
The researchers also have several suggestions for managers who oversee and design remote-work arrangements.
They advise managers to consider their workers’ behavior when determining who will work away from the office.
Prof. Perry said:
“I would suggest managers look at employee behaviors, rather than for personality traits, per se. For example, if someone does not handle stress well in the office, they are not likely to handle it well at home either.”
“If someone gets overwhelmed easily, or reacts in big ways to requests or issues in the office, they are likely less well positioned to work remotely and handle that responsibility and stress.”
Remote-work – best candidates not always available
According to this study’s findings, people with high levels of autonomy and emotional stability are ideal for remote-work. However, employees with these characteristics may not always be available.
The authors wrote:
“If less emotionally stable individuals must work remotely, managers should take care to provide more resources, other than autonomy, including support to help foster strong relationships with co-workers and avoid strain.”
Managers should also consider providing training and equipment for remote-work, the researchers added. This would include training on the proper separation of work and family spaces.
“Stress in remote-work: two studies testing the Demand-Control-Person model,” Sara Jansen Perry, Cristina Rubino, & Emily M. Hunter. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, (2018). DOI: 10.1080/1359432X.2018.1487402.