In Brief

Stuck at the office late again, only to get in a fight with your spouse because you missed dinner? A recent study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP) (Vol. 92, No. 6), shows that workers who have more control over their hours are less likely to experience such frustrations.

What's more, employees with stimulating, autonomous jobs also reported high satisfaction with their work-life balance, says study author Monique Valcour, PhD, a business professor at Boston College.

Valcour and her colleagues surveyed 570 call center representatives, asking them about their work hours, job complexity and work-family balance. Many call-center jobs require people to stay at their desks for a rigid amount of time; some must even schedule bathroom breaks. That can translate into difficulty managing one's personal life, Valcour says.

"There are millions of people who don't have control of their schedules," she says. "If they miss a day of work to stay home with their sick child...they might lose their job."

Whenever possible, employers should try to structure jobs so that employees have flexible work hours, autonomous work and increased job complexity, which leads to higher job satisfaction and decreased employee turnover, she says.

Similarly, findings from a meta-analysis of 46 studies on telecommuting published in same issue of JAP showed that employees who telecommute are more productive, less likely to quit, and more satisfied with their jobs and personal lives than those who spend the whole workweek in the office. Employees reaped the most benefits from telecommuting when managers gave employees flexibility on when and how they worked from home, say the researchers.

"Saying you can work from home but insisting you be there between 9 and 5-that's not realistic," says lead researcher Ravi S. Gajendran, a doctoral candidate in the department of management and organizations at Pennsylvania State University. "Creating arrangements that allow for employee control over place and time is critical," Gajendran says.

The one downside to the traffic-free telecommute? Working at home too frequently-three or more days per week-made telecommuters feel too isolated from their co-workers, even though managers reported that these frequent telecommuters stayed on track in their work.

"You're left out of social events...it's not easy to get job-related information and social support," says Gajendran. "And the more time you spend away, the worse it gets."

-D. Schwartz and J. Chamberlin