Why learners should be allowed to take work home

by L&D24 May 2016

A strict separation between work and home life has been a strategy by many employees to maintain concentration and high performance in the office.

However, a new study suggests this may not be the best idea.

The research by SAGE in partnership with The Tavistock Institute suggests that integration across both domains reduces the impact of moving between home and work roles

Moreover, the researchers argue allowing employees to work from home preserves their ability to be effective in their jobs.

"In the long run, it may be better to allow employees' minds to wander and take occasional phone calls from home rather than set up policies that establish strict and inflexible boundaries, which could discourage the development of functional ways to juggle both,” said the study authors.

The researchers looked at how people with integrated boundaries across home and work are likely to develop methods that help them transition between these domains more efficiently and with less mental effort.

Their study finds that employees who use flexible working arrangements experienced less disruption to job performance during times when home interruptions impacted their life in the workplace.

To help reduce the number of cognitive role transitions a worker experiences throughout the day when work-life integration policies are not realistic, they suggest goal setting.

This involves creating plans that specify 'what, when and how' incomplete tasks will be completed.

Putting together these plans may help prevent mental distractions from unfinished tasks that are not relevant at work, the authors said.

"Overall, our findings suggest that integration, rather than segmentation, may be a better long-term boundary management strategy for minimising resource depletion and maintaining higher levels of job performance during inevitable work-family role transitions," said the researchers.

The study was published in the journal Human Relations by SAGE in partnership with The Tavistock Institute.