Escaping the Cubicle: Exploring the Physical Work Environment of the Home

Escaping the Cubicle: Exploring the Physical Work Environment of the Home

Elizabeth (Libby) J. Sander, Alannah Rafferty, Peter J. Jordan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6754-8.ch011
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A rise in contingent work, the increasing real estate costs for organizations, technological advances, and more recently, restrictions on movement emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a sharp increase in the number of employees working from home. These have significant implications for individuals, organizations, and society. Yet the physical work environment within the home has received little attention from scholars. Research on traditional office settings indicates that the physical environment influences a range of well-being and performance outcomes, indicating a critical need for researchers to consider the impact of the physical work environment at home. To address this issue, the authors briefly summarize the effects of the physical work environment and review existing research on working from home. They then propose directions for future research and emerging methodologies to undertake this research. Finally, they detail the practical implications that these changes bring for individuals, organizations, and society.
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Overview Of Research On Work From Home

The ability to WFH, also known as teleworking or telecommuting, has been enabled by developments in technology and flexible work practices (Eurofound & ILO, 2017; Nilles, 1997; Perez, 2004). As a result of technological developments, many formerly office-based employees can work outside of the traditional office setting. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in spite of numerous benefits in terms of cost-savings through reducing the need to situate employees in shared offices, environmental benefits from reduced commuting, and improved employee well-being and productivity (see Allen, Golden & Shockley, 2015 for review; Golden & Gajendran, 2019), WFH was not as common as might be imagined. Impediments to implementing WFH include managers’ perceptions that employees may ‘slack off’ (Allen, Golden & Shockley, 2015) and employee concerns that WFH may harm their career (Baruch, 2003). Although many companies state that they offer flexible work arrangements, including greater autonomy over employees’ hours and conduct of work, this does not necessarily extend to support for employees to WFH (Allen, Johnson, Kiburz & Shockley, 2013). Even those permitted to work from home may only be allowed to do so on a limited basis despite reports suggesting that up to 40% of employees in developed economies are able to do their job from home (Travers, 2020).

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