George Mason Associate Professor and MBA Program Academic Director, Kevin Rockmann, recently conducted research revolving around the psychological attachments that individuals maintain with organizations, teams, and each other. Below, he shares his thoughts on how these attachments are influenced by teleworking.
“Any company wishing to encourage both job-related motivation as well as outside-the-job effort should strive to build a sense of psychological attachment among its employees. A strong attachment to the company helps an employee to not only stay motivated in their work but to see the company in a positive light, both of which translate to company success.
One of the current dilemmas for companies wishing to engender such attachments is how strongly to encourage or deny telework – a debate echoed in the last two weeks by Yahoo’s announcement.
Supporting Yahoo’s position is the research on proximity and attachment, which suggests that stronger bonds are formed when individuals are physically located near each other, such as when everyone is encapsulated inside the company’s walls. Further, the evidence suggests that while teleworkers are happier and perhaps more productive, there is a sacrifice to co-worker bonds over time. A perhaps unintended effect is that those employees left behind in the office are not happy, as the people they come in to work with everyday are no longer there.
On the other side though companies such as Yahoo may be unable to realize the benefits of physical proximity if the employees want and are used to the freedom and flexibility of telework. If employees know that other companies are allowing such forms of work and remember what it was like to have such freedom their bonds with the company will suffer due to feelings of injustice.
This leaves companies with no clear path forward. They want to satisfy their employees, but they also want the collaborative relationships facilitated by proximity. Yahoo says they will do this by “incentivizing talent” but whether they can incentivize enough to make people forget about the lost time with their friends and family remains to be seen.”
What are your thoughts about teleworking and the impact it has on psychological attachments in your organization? Are you part of a cohort in your MBA program and do you see this theory carried over to the attachments you maintain with your MBA program cohort members.