By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Employees who work from home commit less misconduct on the job than peers who head into the office each day, according to results of a recent survey of employers.
Sixty-eight percent of more than 200 firms surveyed for a study by the Ethisphere Institute and Jones Lang LaSalle said they allowed their employees to work from home on a regular basis. Eleven percent said work-from-home employees had committed ethics violations in the past two years. But 36% reported visible ethics violations in employees who don’t work from home regularly, and 43% reported non-visible violations for this group, such as expense account fraud or bribery.
“You can see why someone working from home wouldn’t get embroiled in some of the things that lead to trouble,” said Mark Ohringer, executive vice president and global general counsel for Jones Lang LaSalle, a real-estate services firm. For example, the opportunity to tell offensive jokes or harass people diminishes when someone isn’t in the office, he said.
But that’s only one type of misconduct. Others range from conflict of interest, expense-report abuse and theft, to misusing social media, which can involve revealing sensitive information about the company online, said Alex Brigham, executive director at the Ethisphere Institute, a research organization dedicated to matters of business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anticorruption and sustainability.
In fact, it may be the employee’s eagerness to maintain his or her work-from-home privilege that makes that person extra careful to comply with a company’s ethics policy, Brigham said.
“Working from home is still viewed as a positive privilege because it’s still pretty new,” Brigham said. “In terms of the privilege of working from home, they didn’t want to put it at risk because they didn’t want to get called back into the office.”
Plus, there’s the thinking that if an employer trusts an employee to work out of sight of the manager, that employee is apt to be more conscientious about following the rules.
“Empowering people and treating them like professionals and adults leads to better behavior. If they feel like they’re being treated well and trusted, that’s the treatment they give back to the company,” Ohringer said.
Ranks of teleworkers on the rise
Companies have good reason to allow employees to work from home, including better space utilization, which can cut down on real-estate costs, as well as stronger employee engagement and retention, according to Jones Lang LaSalle. But while many companies have telecommuting policies, the privilege of working from home often isn’t a given, said Patricia Roberts, executive vice president of strategic consulting at Jones Lang LaSalle.
“Many of our clients are being very careful about eligibility and suitability for working from home,” Roberts said. Sometimes, the conversation starts with the employee’s self-assessment, which can kick off a talk with the manager to decide whether telecommuting should be an option, she said. Certain roles simply can’t be done off-site.
People suited to work from home are typically self-starters, said Kate Lister, president of the Telework Research Network, a consulting and research firm specializing in telework and workplace flexibility strategies. Employers have to be confident employees will work just as well at home.
People who work at home are more honest #in
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