Do Virtual Offices Blur Boundaries Between Work and Home?

TORONTO—The cry for work-life balance has reached a fevered pitch and many companies are looking at alternative workplace strategies, like telecommuting from a virtual office, are finding greater adoption.

Beyond work-life balance, rising gas prices have also helped virtual office use become an attractive option for busy professionals. But virtual office users beware: If you aren’t careful you may end up working more hours than if you stayed in the traditional office space.

According to a new study from The University of Texas at Austin, for most employees who work remotely, telecommuting equates to working more hours.

Specifically, the study shows that most of the 30 percent of respondents who work from home add five to seven hours to their workweek compared with those who work exclusively at a traditional office. They are also significantly less likely to work a standard 40-hour schedule and more likely to work overtime. In fact, most telecommuting hours occur after an employee has already put in 40 hours of work at the office.

The study concludes that telecommuting from a virtual office causes work to seep into home life. The study confirms an issue previously identified in the 2008 Pew Networked Workers survey. According to that survey, a majority of tech-savvy workers claim that telecommuting technology has increased their overall work hours and that employees use technology, especially e-mail, to perform work tasks even when sick or on vacation.

“Careful monitoring of this blurred boundary between work and home time and the erosion of ‘normal working hours’ in many professions can help us understand the expansion of work hours overall among salaried workers,” says Jennifer Glass, professor in the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Center.

For employers, this may sound like good news. For virtual office workers, you may already know this. If you work from a virtual office, do you find the results of this study to be true? Do the lines between work and life blur together? This is always a danger, and no more so with virtual office work. No matter where you work, it’s up to you to set the appropriate boundaries to safeguard your family time.


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