Baylor's Sara Perry
Reveals Who is Best Suited for Remote Work
November 5, 2018
U.S. employees believe working from home – or at least away from the
office – can bring freedom and stress-free job satisfaction. A new
Baylor University study says, “Not so fast.”
The study, published recently in the European Journal of Work and
Organizational Psychology, examines the impact of remote work on
employee well-being and offers several strategies to help managers
provide remote-work opportunities that are valuable to the employee and
“Any organization, regardless of the extent to which people work
remotely, needs to consider well-being of their employees as they
implement more flexible working practices,” the researchers wrote.
Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of management in Baylor University's
Hankamer School of Business (Baylor Marketing & Communications)
A total of 403
working adults were surveyed for the two studies that made up the
research, said lead author Sara Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of
management in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business. The
research team measured each employee’s autonomy (the level of a worker’s
independence), strain (defined in this study as exhaustion,
disengagement and dissatisfaction) and emotional stability.
Emotional stability, Perry explained, “captures how even keeled someone
is or, on the opposite end, how malleable their emotions are. An example
would be if something stressful happens at work, a person who is high on
emotional stability would take it in stride, remain positive and figure
out how to address it. A person low on emotional stability might get
frustrated and discouraged, expending energy with those emotions instead
of on the issue at hand.”
The research found that:
• Autonomy is critical to protecting remote employees’ well-being and
helping them avoid strain.
• Employees reporting high levels of autonomy and emotional stability
appear to be the most able to thrive in remote-work positions.
• Employees reporting high levels of job autonomy with lower levels of
emotional stability appear to be more susceptible to strain.
Perry said the study contradicts past research that says autonomy is a
universal need that everyone possesses. Per this research, those who are
lower in emotional stability may not need or want as much autonomy in
“This lower need for autonomy may explain why less emotionally stable
employees don’t do as well when working remotely, even when they have
autonomy,” researchers wrote.
In addition to their findings, the researchers offered several
recommendations for managers who design or oversee remote-work
The research team advised managers to consider their employees’ behavior
when deciding who will work remotely.
would suggest managers look at employee behaviors, rather than for
personality traits, per se,” Perry said. “For example, if someone does
not handle stress well in the office, they are not likely to handle it
well at home either. If someone gets overwhelmed easily, or reacts in
big ways to requests or issues in the office, they are likely less well
positioned to work remotely and handle that responsibility and stress.”
Based on this study, individuals with high emotional stability and high
levels of autonomy are better suited for remote work, but such
candidates might not always be available.
“If less emotionally stable individuals must work remotely, managers
should take care to provide more resources, other than autonomy,
including support to help foster strong relationships with coworkers and
avoid strain,” they wrote.
Managers might also consider providing proper training and equipment for
remote work, including proper separation of work and family spaces,
clear procedural and performance expectations and regular contact
(virtual or face-to-face) with coworkers and managers.