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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Impact of Gender, Occupation, and Presence of Children on Telecommuting Motivations and Constraints

  • Author(s): Mokhtarian, Patricia L.
  • Bagley, Michael N.
  • Salomon, Ilan
  • et al.

Accurate forecasts of the adoption and impacts of telecommuting depend on an understanding of what motivates individuals to adopt telecommuting and what constraints prevent them from doing so, since these motivations and constraints offer insight into who is likely to telecommute under what circumstances. Telecommuting motivations and constraints are likely to differ by various segments of society. In this study, we analyze differences in these variables due to gender, occupation, and presence of children for 583 employees of the City of San Diego. Numerous differences are identified, which can be used to inform policies (public or organizational) intended to support telecommuting. Most broadly, women on average rated the advantages of telecommuting more highly than men – both overall and within each occupation group. Women were more likely than men to have family, personal benefits, and stress reduction as potential motivations for telecommuting, and more likely to possess the constraints of supervisor unwillingness, risk aversion, and concern about lack of visibility to management. Clerical workers were more likely than managers or professionals to see the family, personal, and office stress-reduction benefits of telecommuting as important, whereas managers and professionals were more likely to cite getting more work done as the most important advantage of telecommuting. Constraints present more strongly for clerical workers than for other occupations included misunderstanding, supervisor unwillingness, job unsuitability, risk aversion, and (together with professional workers) perceived reduced social interaction. Constraints operating more strongly for professional workers included fear of household distractions, reduced social and (together with managers) professional interaction, the need for discipline, and lack of visibility to management. Key constraints present for managers included reduced professional interaction and household distractions. Lack of awareness, cost, and lack of technology or other resources did not differ significantly by gender or occupation. Respondents with children rated the stress reduction and family benefits of telecommuting more highly than did those with no children at home. Those with children were more likely than those without children to be concerned about the lack of visibility to management, and (especially managers) were more likely to cite household distractions as a constraint.

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