Ralph Westfall's Telecommuting Research

The following items relate to telecommuting and virtual work arrangements.

Gray, P. and Westfall, R. (1995) "Agency Theory and Telecommuting," OR/MS Today (22)4, p. 24.
This sidebar provides a brief description of agency theory and notes the relevance of agency theory constructs, such as outcome- and behavior-based contracts, to telecommuting.

PonTell, S., Gray, P., Markus, M. L., and Westfall, R. D. (1996) "The Demand for Telecommuting," Proceedings of the Telecommuting '96 Conference, R. T. Watson and R. P. Bostrom (eds.), Jacksonville, FL.
This paper summarizes findings of the WorkSmart Project's case studies on the potential impacts of telecommuting and other alternative work arrangements at Southern California offices of Caltrans, Chiat/Day, GTEL and KPMG Peat Marwick. My primary contribution was a section on the impacts of agency theory and institutional theory constructs on the demand for telecommuting.

Westfall, R. D. (2004) "Does Telecommuting Really Increase Productivity?" Communications of the ACM (47)8, pp. 93-96.
This paper raises serious concerns about the widely held--but inadequately supported--idea that telecommuting leads to large increases in productivity. (Also see two letters and author's rebuttal in the Forum section of the (47)11 issue in November 2004.)

Westfall, R. D. (1997) " Does Telecommuting Really Increase Productivity? Fifteen Rival Hypotheses," Indianapolis, IN: AIS Americas Conference, pp. 405-407.
This paper identifies 15 factors that could lead to an erroneous conclusion that telecommuting increases productivity. To be valid, research on telecommuting productivity needs to take these factors into account. The paper also includes a two-dimensional economic analysis of telecommuting costs and benefits based on different levels of a) employee compensation and b) telecommuting days per week.

Westfall, R. D. (1997) Remote Work: a Conceptual Perspective on the Demand for Telecommuting (abstract), unpublished doctoral dissertation, Claremont, CA: Claremont Graduate School.
The dissertation examines the demand for remote work. From the perspective of agency theory, it hypothesizes that typical telecommuting implementations shift the employment relationship from behavior-based to outcome-based contracts. From an institutional theory perspective, it hypothesizes that typical telecommuting implementations reduce the perceived legitimacy of telecommuting. The dissertation also develops a comprehensive economic model of the costs and benefits of telecommuting at different salary levels and varying telecommuting days per week.

Westfall, R. D. (1996) "Telemovers and Shakers," Internet-published internal memoing from WorkSmart research project.
A little "think piece," developed for the amusement of the members of the project team.

Westfall, R. D. (1998) "The Microeconomics of Remote Work," chapter in The Virtual Workplace, M. Igbaria and M. Tan (eds.), Harrisburg, PA: Idea Group Publishing, pp. 256-287.
This chapter provides a revised and enhanced version of the economic model in the dissertation. The analysis includes productivity gains, compensation levels, explicit and implicit support costs, telecommuting days per week, occupancy cost savings, impacts of reduced face-to-face access, and startup costs.

Westfall, R. D. (1997) "The Telecommuting Paradox," Information Systems Management (14)4, pp. 15-20.
This paper summarizes the agency theory and institutional theory arguments from the dissertation to explain why telecommuting usage is relatively low in spite of the perceived benefits.

Westfall, R. and Gray, P. (1995) "Forum: Considerations for the Virtual Office," Communications of the ACM (38)12, pp. 14-15.
A letter to the editor, raising questions about the contents of an article on the virtual office in a previous issue.

Other Telecommuting Research

France Belanger

Director of the Center for Global Electronic Commerce and Assistant Professor of Information Systems in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Virginia Tech. Her research focuses on the use of telecommunication technologies in organizations, in particular for distributed work arrangements, electronic commerce, and distance learning.

Other Telecommuting Links

UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies
Telecommunications and Travel Behavior Research Program

TTBRS Publications
A reliable source of information on telecommuting. The Telecommunications and Travel Behavior Research Program, University of California, Davis conducts academic research on transportation issues. Studies are rigorous, with good documentation of sources and supporting data.

Gil Gordon Associates: Telecommuting, Telework & Alternative Officing

Gil Gordon has been active in the telecommuting field for many years. Site contains a substantial amount of useful content.

International Telework Association & Council (ITAC)

Another useful source.

The Machine Stops

Although written in 1909, this science fiction short story by E. M. Forster presages much of what is now described as virtual (telecommuting, virtual office, distance learning, etc.)

Disclaimer. Although Ralph Westfall is a member of the Some Information Systems Professional Association, the telecommuting research materials on this page reflect his personal perspectives and are not intended to represent any policies or positions of that organization.

Email: rdwestfall at csupomona.edu      Ralph Westfall's web page