The Effects of Telecommuting on Call Center Productivity
Virtual offices are a growing trend in today’s work environment and are expected to influence an organization’s productivity. Based on an empirical analysis of data retrieved from a call center located within a large Midwest medical device company, the current study explored if telecommuting influenced productivity. Four dependent variables were analyzed: number of incoming phone calls, average incoming call duration, logged time worked and disruption time for software and hardware issues. Collected data represented information gathered from 62 customer service consultants whose working time was divided between the ...view middle of the document...
The inception of the internet has allowed companies across the globe to implement virtual work environments away from the traditional office setting. Computer technology has become a common work arrangement for over 20 million workers in the United States (Golden & Veiga, 2008). Further studies indicate 15% of the United States and Canada, and 9% of Europe have adopted telecommuting as a standard work arrangement (Neufeld & Fang, 2005). Given the growing emphasis over the last few decades to improve work–life balance among employees (Shamir & Salomon, 1985), increased real estate and furniture costs for employers (Page, 1998), higher transportation expenses, the Employee Commute Option of the Clean Air Act (Belanger, & Collins 1998), and the threat of business disruption due to natural disasters (Hunton & Norman, 2003), the attractiveness of remote work locations for businesses and workers alike is increasing.
Literature on telecommuting and its effects on productivity are varied and generally inconclusive (Shin, El Sawy, Sheng, Higa, 2000). The current review of literature found only one study nearly 26 years ago that reported a decrease in productivity (Phelps, 1985). Although the findings are mixed, several studies suggest that telecommuting increases productivity (Be´langer, 1999; Frolick, Wilkes, & Urwiler, 1993; Kantz, 1987).
The majority of previous investigations on telecommuting and productivity were based on qualitative self report data, suggesting a potential bias to report success. Aware of this limitation in the literature, Butler, Aasheim, and Williams (2007) studied collected data (not self reports) related to productivity within a call center. Though not a statistically significant finding, they found that telecommuters worked an average 3.98 more hours per month than non-telecommuters, suggesting positive support for increased productivity. Contrary findings were reported by Colihan, Hill, Miller and Weiner (1998). They found no difference in hours worked between telecommuters and non-telecommuters.
Loy, Brown, and Butler (2003) based their longitudinal study on collected data, reporting a decrease in abandoned calls from 12.2% to 3.6%, thereby suggesting a positive effect on productivity. In a separate study, Hunton and Norman (2010) found organizational commitment was significantly higher when employees were allowed to choose between working at the office or home. Moreover, task performance was positively associated with organizational commitment, suggesting alternative telecommuting arrangements can increase organizational commitment and task performance. Similarly, Mamaghani (2006) suggested greater commitment, reduced absenteeism, and reduced employee relocation costs are associated telecommuting benefits.
The work of O’Neil, Hambley, Greidanus, MacDonnell, and Kline (2009) studied personality characteristics and motivational traits for telecommuters and non-telecommuters regarding job effectiveness. ...