Telework and health : a sociological study of illness and sickness in new forms of employment.
Telework is widely predicted to increase and to bring a range of social advantages - spatiotemporal
flexibility and autonomy, and disadvantages - labour exploitation and isolation. Benefits
are generally expected to be gained by professional, predominantly male workers, not female
It is ofteni mpliedt hath ealthw ill improvet hrought he eliminationo f office-relateds tressorsa nd
stressfuinl terpersonarel lationshipsM. ore vaguelyt he homei s presenteda s healthp romotinga nd
illnessp reventingO. ccupationahl ealthr esearchh ase xploredt he effectso f computerw ork, and
the psychologicailm plicationso f isolation.Y et there hasb eenl ittle investigationo f the health
experienceosf teleworkersa s perceivedb y themselves.
Forty-four teleworkers were interviewed in depth and most completed five questionnaires over
a period of six months. Analysis of data was presented for participant validation. The research,
therefore, offers an account of the lived experience of telework and teleworker's own
explanations of health.
The findings were as follows. Regardless of occupational status or time worked at home,
teleworkers worked in marginalised space at home to cause minimal disruption to family life.
Telework encouraged very long hours and the recalculation of time. The negotiation of absence
and presence was central to the development of an acceptable work identity. Teleworkers
balanced these costs against the privilege of home-based work. Participants were found to have
a high level of chronic illness, and to frequently report instances of illness. Yet most believed they
felt better, although not healthier, since working at home. The results were interpreted using
Alonzo's (1979) model of containment, suggesting that reported reductions in sickness absence
cannot necessarily be interpreted as improvements in health. The research showed that
teleworkers reporting illness took fewer days free of work than those reporting to be well, and
that telework changed health beliefs and behaviours in ways not fully appreciated in the literature