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Telecommuting Can Be Hazardous to Your Career

It turns out that showing your face at work does matter . / Credit: Face time image via Shutterstock

Working from home has become an attractive work option for a growing number of employees and companies. But new research suggests that nontraditional arrangements such as working from home or using a drop-in work center can have hidden pitfalls. Employees who work remotely may end up getting lower performance evaluations, smaller raises and fewer promotions than their colleagues in the office — even if they work just as hard and just as long.

In turns out that showing your face at work does matter, according to research conducted by Kimberly Elsbach, a professor management at the University of California, Davis, and Daniel Cable, a professor at the London Business School. What is important is not active interactions with co-workers or clients, but merely being seen in the workplace.

Elsback and Cable call this "passive face time." You only need to be seen at work; what you are doing or how well you're doing it is irrelevant.

Even when off-site and in-office employees make the same contribution, their supervisors may evaluate them differently because of the amount of passive face time they put in.

Elsbach and Cable also discovered that there are nuances in passive face time. Expected face time is simply being seen at work during normal business hours. Extracurricular face time is being seen at work outside of normal business hours — arriving before most employees arrive, staying late or coming in to work outside of normal business hours.

The kind of face time an employee puts in also colors how their supervisors view them, Elsbach and Cable found.  Expected face time led to inferences of the traits "responsible" and "dependable," while putting in extracurricular appearances upped the ante to ”committed" and "dedicated."

Judgments based on face time can also have an insidious effect, Elsback and Cable found. Managers may not be aware they are making evaluations based on face time.

"Our interviews suggest that managers' inferences based on passive face time are unintentional — even unconscious," Elsback and Cable wrote. "This supports research findings that people generally form trait inferences spontaneously, without realizing what they're doing."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.

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