Virtual office intervention effectiveness: A systems approach

Michelle M. Robertson, Jin Lin, Emily Huang, Lawrence Schleifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Virtual office work, or telework/remote work, has existed since the 1970s due to the widespread availability of new technologies. Despite a dramatic increase in remote office work, few studies have examined its long-term effects on work environments and worker well-being. OBJECTIVE: A prospective field intervention study was undertaken to examine the effects of a Virtual Office program on office workers' psychosocial perceptions, mental and physical well-being, workplace satisfaction, and performance. METHOD: A large public service organization undertook a 12-month Virtual Office (VO) pilot program using a systems approach. The study included 137 VO employees (intervention condition), and 85 Conventional Office (CO) employees (control condition). The VO intervention used a work system approach consisting of establishing a steering committee, training programs, and VO resource website. Employee survey measures and follow-up focus group observations were used to examine the impact of the VO intervention. RESULTS: Virtual office participants reported higher job control, group interactions and cohesiveness, and quality of supervision than the CO participants. VO participants reported lower upper body musculoskeletal symptoms and physical/mental stress than CO participants. VO participants reported higher performance (customer satisfaction) than the CO participants. CONCLUSION: The study findings were sufficiently positive to provide a basis for work organizations to undertake similar pilot programs. Consideration of work system factors when designing an effective VO program can benefit employee's well-being and performance. The rationale for implementing VO programs is underscored by the current COVID-19 pandemic. VO work will continue to some degree for the foreseeable future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-464
Number of pages14
JournalWork
Volume71
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Telework
  • field study
  • macroergonomics
  • prospective design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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