A Quasi-Experimental Examination of Telework Eligibility and Participation in the U.S. Federal Government

AuthorSun Young Kim,David Lee
Published date01 December 2018
Date01 December 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2018, Vol. 38(4) 451 –471
© The Author(s) 2016
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X16680269
A Quasi-Experimental
Examination of Telework
Eligibility and Participation in
the U.S. Federal Government
David Lee1 and Sun Young Kim2
This article examines the causal effects of telework eligibility and participation on
employee attitudes, including perceived fairness, job satisfaction, and intention to
stay, in the U.S. federal government. Drawing on the literatures on social exchange
and organizational justice, we investigate how telework eligibility and participation
influence employee attitudes and whether different reasons for nonparticipation have
varying impacts. Our findings show that those employees who are eligible to telework
report higher levels of perceived fairness, job satisfaction, and intention to stay than
do those employees who are ineligible. On the other hand, the effects of telework
participation on employee attitudes depend upon the reasons why nonparticipants
do not telework. Specifically, when employees do not telework because of insufficient
technical or managerial support, they report significantly lower levels of perceived
fairness, job satisfaction, and intention to stay than do teleworkers. However,
nontelework due to job requirements or personal choice does not have significant,
negative effects on work attitudes.
telework arrangements, eligibility, participation, federal government
For the past few decades, the use of telework arrangements has been increasing in
many organizations as a means of providing employees with enhanced flexibility in
regard to choosing their work locations and times (Wadsworth, Facer, & Arbon, 2010).
Although the improvement in work-life balance is one of the primary benefits
1University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, USA
2University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Sun Young Kim, Department of Public Administration and Policy, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
30602, USA.
Email: kimsun@uga.edu
680269ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X16680269Review of Public Personnel AdministrationLee and Kim
452 Review of Public Personnel Administration 38(4)
of teleworking for employees, such arrangements have several other advantages for
individuals, organizations, and society, in terms of cost savings related to office main-
tenance, transportation, energy, and environments as well as the increased continuity
of operations in emergency situations and natural disasters (Caillier, 2012; Major,
Verive, & Joice, 2008; Maruyama, Hopkinson, & James, 2009; Overmyer, 2011).
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM; 2013), telework is
defined as “a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the
duties and responsibilities of such employee’s position, and other authorized activities,
from an approved work site other than the location from which the employee would
otherwise work” (pp. 17-18). It is one of the most widely used work-life programs in
the federal government; in 2015, more than one third of federal employees participated
in some form of telework (OPM, 2015).
In the United States, the Telework Enhancement Act (the Act, hereafter) was signed
into law in 2010, with the purpose of encouraging all federal agencies to expand tele-
work eligibility and provide appropriate arrangements to increase the use of telework
in the workplace. The main objective of the Act was to facilitate employees’ access to
alternative work arrangements and make telework programs widely available to a
large portion of the federal workforce. Under the Act, all eligible employees should be
able to participate in telework programs if they want to do so, but actual participation
often requires managerial and technical support from the agency because each agency
is granted the discretion to set the eligibility and participation criteria for teleworking
and is expected to remove barriers that prevent effective teleworking.
Given the widespread use of telework programs and the benefits of such work
arrangements, a great deal of research has been conducted to examine the effects of
telework on various work outcomes, including work productivity and performance,
employee retention, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction and involvement
(Bloom, Liang, Roberts, & Ying, 2015; Caillier, 2012, 2013; Gajendran & Harrison,
2007; Martin & MacDonnell, 2012). First, previous studies have provided mixed sup-
port for the impact of telework on employee productivity, suggesting that telework
arrangements have both advantages and disadvantages in terms of work performance.
Greater flexibility and convenience of working at home as well as reduced time spent
in commuting can lead teleworkers to perform their core functions more efficiently
during work hours, thereby improving individual and organizational productivity
(Bloom et al., 2015; Gajendran & Harrison, 2007; Hill, Miller, Weiner, & Colihan,
1998; Kossek, Lautsch, & Eaton, 2006). However, telework is also associated with
limited oversight of managers and increased family interruptions with work, which
may result in shirking or moral hazard of teleworkers (Dunham, Pierce, & Casteneda,
1987; Lee & Hong, 2011; Pierce & Newstrom, 1982).
Second, teleworkers are likely to exhibit more positive work attitudes than nontele-
workers because they can benefit from greater flexibility in terms of their work loca-
tions as well as a greater balance between their work and personal lives (Caillier, 2012,
2013; Martin & MacDonnell, 2012). However, the effects of teleworking on employee
attitudes may vary depending on the reasons why nonteleworkers do not participate.
Although the Act recommends that all federal agencies provide telework arrangements

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