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Hey, Jealousy: Envy Blossoms Among In-House Workers

Allowing some employees to telecommute may inspire resentment in those who aren’t allowed the privilege.

October 11, 2013

It may not be surprising that in the digital age 70 percent of employees say they would rather telecommute than work in their office.

It may, however, be surprising to learn 57 percent of employees say they are jealous of colleagues who are allowed to telecommute, according to a survey published by Deltek Inc., a global enterprise software company based in Herndon, Virginia. And when it comes to workers between the ages of 35 and 44, 81 percent said they’d prefer to telecommute. That number drops to 66 percent for workers between the ages of 18 and 24.

When some employees are offered the convenience of working from home and others aren’t, that’s when jealousy may start to arise — especially among older workers, working parents and those earning a high salary. According to the survey, 65 percent of workers over the age of 65 are jealous of their telecommuting co-workers. Additionally, 60 percent of working parents and 75 percent of workers earning more than $100,000 per year are jealous of colleagues who get to work from home, according to the survey.

But while most employees say they would rather work at home than in the office, and despite the possibility those employees who aren’t allowed to do so may get jealous of those who do, telecommuting isn’t a realistic option for all employees.

There are some jobs that require an on-site presence, said David Kirby, Deltek’s chief human resources officer. “There are times when, either due to technology difficulties or based on the nature of the job, someone’s role requires them to be in the office,” Kirby said.

Telecommuting is a benefit of certain kinds of jobs rather than a performance reward, added Jeff Eckerle, co-founder of Deltek’s Kona Project, which develops social collaboration software.

“Some people just have positions that require them to be in an office. They need to be there to do their job,” Eckerle said. “Telecommuting isn’t about, ‘Well, you deserve it, and you don’t.’ It’s really a function of what you do.”

An interesting finding of Deltek’s survey shows 64 percent of respondents believe email is an effective way to communicate within a group. This seems to suggest many workers are already collaborating remotely anyway, even when working in the office. And with the rapid pace of technological advances increasing the capabilities of remote communication every year, the expansion of telecommuting to more employees appears inevitable.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, technology has really enabled telecommuting as a possibility,” Eckerle said. “There’s a whole new level of what next-generation collaboration tools are going to provide for employees working on common goals and purposes that are better than email communication, and it will make it even less necessary for people to be in the same room."

Max Mihelich is a Workforce associate editor. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Mihelich on Twitter at @workforcemax.