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Do Telecommuters Get Fewer Promotions?

Working from home, or telecommuting, can offer several benefits for employees, including greater flexibility for a better work-life balance, the potential for greater productivity and no stressful commute (which also benefits the environment).

However, telecommuting carries a stigma that employees who work remotely may have difficulties getting promoted.

Now a new study, published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, suggests that these assumptions may not necessarily be true; in fact, getting promoted may depend on several factors.

Dr. Timothy D. Golden, a professor and area head of enterprise management and organization at the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, conducted the new study to determine whether telecommuters really do get fewer promotions and to see what factors are at play. Golden is an expert in the field of telework and telecommuting and has been studying this topic for more than 20 years.

Overall, he found that rather than suffering career consequences, telecommuters and non-telecommuters tend to receive an equal number of promotions.

“Although telecommuting has experienced rapid growth, some workers are reluctant to try telecommuting for fear that it will hurt their career,” Golden said. “This research helps answer that critical question: Does it hurt your career if you telecommute? My study shows that it depends heavily on the employee’s work context.”

Golden found that a key driver in getting promotions was the prevalence of telecommuting in the workplace. For example, remote employees were promoted more when they worked for a company that was widely accepting of telecommuting. However, in offices where few people telecommuted, those employees received fewer promotions.

While telecommuters may rise in the ranks at the same rate as their office-bound counterparts, Golden observed that employees working from home don’t earn the same bump in pay.

However, if telecommuters signaled a “devotion” to the workplace by working additional hours outside of normal working hours, his analysis indicated that they benefited in terms of both promotions and salary growth.

In addition, the findings show that the amount of telecommuting per week is also a key factor in an employee’s advancement. Golden also found that face time matters. Even when an employee telecommuted a large percentage of their work week, telecommuters who had more in-person contact with supervisors received higher pay increases.

For the study, Golden used a sample of more than 400 employees matched with corporate data on promotion and salary growth.

“In this study, I wanted to use objective data — actual promotions and salary increases — rather than simply rely on survey responses, as had been done in previous research,” Golden said. “In this way, we can begin to uncover the true impact of telecommuting on fundamental career outcomes, such as promotions and salary growth over time.”

“Previous research has tended to treat all telecommuters as one homogeneous group, and my research suggests that telecommuting is not a one-size-fits-all work arrangement,” Golden said.

“Telecommuting arrangements are often unique, and differences in these arrangements must be understood and taken into account when determining how best to be successful. This study suggests contextual factors are especially important to consider when determining telecommuting’s effect on promotions and salary growth.”

Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


Do Telecommuters Get Fewer Promotions?

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Do Telecommuters Get Fewer Promotions?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Feb 2020 (Originally: 28 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 28 Feb 2020
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