MILWAUKEE, WISC.—Yesterday, we looked at one of the biggest myths around virtual offices: people who telecommute regularly feel less attached to the organization they work.

A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study actually showed that the more teleworkers communicated with others, the more stressed they felt due to interruptions. And this was negatively associated with their identification with the organization.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study also evaluated differences between teleworkers, which include virtual office workers, and traditional office workers. It turns out that teleworkers regularly worked at least three days a week from a location other than the office, and office workers worked at least three days a week in an office or shared workspace alongside their colleagues. Each set of employees used various modes of communication, including face-to-face, phone or e-mail contact, instant messaging and videoconferencing.

Consider some additional outcomes of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study as it relates to virtual office workers:

  • Office workers reported significantly greater levels of stress due to interruptions compared to teleworkers, but their organizational identification was not affected by this stress.

  • For teleworkers, stress from interruptions was associated with increased face-to-face communication, email, instant messaging and videoconferencing.

  • For office workers, stress was only related to increased face-to-face and email communication. Results indicate, however, that phone communication generally did not induce the same degree of stress as the other modes.


Kathryn Fonner, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee assistant professor of communication, says the study findings emphasize a need to address the stress and time pressure associated with the constant barrage of workplace communication for everyone. Virtual office workers are included in this mix.

“Teleworkers should strategically manage their connectivity in order to balance the benefits and drawbacks of communicating with others, while organizations should focus on streamlining communication,” Fonner says. “This may include limiting mass e-mails, diminishing the number of weekly meetings, creating information stores and fostering an environment where employees can schedule uninterrupted time to work.”