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Remote office work: changing work patterns in space and time

By Margrethe H. Olson

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 26 No. 3, Pages 182-187

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Remote work refers to organizational work that is performed outside of the normal organizational confines of space and time. The term telecommuting refers to the substitution of communications capabilities for travel to a central work location. Office automation technology permits many office workers to be potential telecommuters in that their work can be performed remotely with computer and communications support. This paper examines some behavioral, organizational, and social issues surrounding remote work, particularly work at home. An exploratory study was conducted of 32 organizational employees who were working at home. Important characteristics of jobs that can be performed at home were: minimum physical requirements, individual control over work pace, defined deliverables, a need for concentration, and a relatively low need for communication. The individuals who worked at home successfully were found to be highly self-motivated and self-disciplined and to have skills which provided them with bargaining power. They also made the arrangement either because of family requirements or because they preferred few social contacts beyond family.

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