Too much telework reduces its beneficial effects, according to a study published this week in the UCLouvain journal “Regards économiques.”
A psychologist from ULiège, an economist and a professor of management from UCLouvain analyzed the positive and negative aspects of working from home in order to propose refinements for the future, as telework is expected to remain in-demand even after coronavirus measures are relaxed enough to allow people to return to the office.
The coronavirus crisis has caused 40 to 60% of Belgians to telework, accelerating its spread. The practice is now popular among a part of the workforce and has become a permanent feature of new working habits.
Belgian rail company SNCB has even launched a pilot project to offer flexible subscriptions for home-work journeys, hoping to meet the demand expected to come with an increase in blended work (people alternating between working from home and working in the office) post-pandemic.
According to the research, after more than two days of telecommuting per week, or 50% of the working time, the positive impact on productivity diminishes.
They also found that the development of telecommuting can potentially change the consumption of office and home space, a change that risks devitalizing urban and business centers.
“Public policies must urgently propose mobility solutions in order to facilitate access to urban centers for workers and to curb a potential desertion of these centers by business districts, mobility being the first factor of choice for telecommuting,” the researchers said.
The intensive practice of telework threatens the existence of work communities within organizations in favor of more formal links, according to the three experts.
They found that working from home can also cause discomfort in terms of ergonomics, private-professional conflict or ambiguity of expectations, and therefore encourage employers to formalize the possibility of teleworking in such a way as to allow their employees to work from home under optimal conditions.
“In order to preserve social links, which guarantee long-term performance, management must regulate the presence of work teams by taking into account their own realities,” said the researchers.
The Brussels Times