U of C professor studies the 21st century workplace

By Alexander Kim, July 24, 2014 —

Research from University of Calgary assistant professor and psychologist Thomas O’Neill suggests that while more businesses have employees working from home, some of them have more trouble adjusting to the new workplace than others.

O’Neill — who calls the trend remote working — identified personality traits that predict job satisfaction, perceptions of performance and the tendency to “cyberslack” by wasting time on the Internet.

“We’re like Pavlovian dogs now,” O’Neill said. “Our energy and attention is immediately redirected upon seeing any kind of stimulus like that. It can take between ten minutes to a half-hour to get fully re-immersed in a state of focus and flow.”

O’Neill said remote working is here to stay and that it’s important to understand how employees can be most effective within the new model.

“The nine-to-five grind is archaic and it doesn’t work anymore,” O’Neill said. “[Young people] are not going to put up with that. [They’re] looking for engagement. [They’re] looking to grow and learn. Remote work fits perfectly with that mentality.”

Procrastinators should be aware of workplace distractions. O’Neill advised turning off digital distractions that pop up on your computer.

Two Calgary businesses with remote workers — a financial investment firm and a talent management firm — were used in the study. Data was collected from 174 participants.

O’Neill is developing an assessment tool to help employees work more effectively from home. He said individuals should be aware of when they work most effectively and plan their days around those times.

“Two hours [of work] in that peak time could be like a day in non-peak time,” he said.

Honest, cooperative and organized workers were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, be happy with their performance and were less likely to cyberslack while working remotely.

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