The Impacts of Telework Options on Worker Outcomes in Local Government: Social Exchange and Social Exclusion Perspectives

Published date01 December 2023
AuthorMyungjung Kwon,Mikyong Kim-Goh
Date01 December 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2023, Vol. 43(4) 754 –773
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X221121051
The Impacts of Telework
Options on Worker
Outcomes in Local
Government: Social Exchange
and Social Exclusion
Myungjung Kwon1 and Mikyong Kim-Goh1
While telework has been adopted widely in local governments because of the
numerous potential benefits that it offers for the workforce, organizations, and
society, little research has been done to examine if and how telework achieves
expected worker outcomes in local governments. Drawing on insights from the
social exchange and social exclusion theories, this article extends previous telework
research by demonstrating the differential effects of telecommute and telework
options on job satisfaction and performance of local government workforce. Data
were collected through an online survey of workers at a large local government
agency in California. Results showed that telework and telecommute options
improved job satisfaction and performance of workers in the local government
agency due to flexible work schedules and locations. In addition, telecommuters
having more interpersonal interaction opportunities which reduce feelings of social
isolation/work alienation experienced higher job satisfaction and performance than
telework, telecommute, worker satisfaction, job performance, local government
1California State University Fullerton, USA
Corresponding Author:
Myungjung Kwon, Division of Politics, Administration and Justice, UH-542, California State University
Fullerton, 800 North State College Boulevard, Fullerton, CA 92831, USA.
1121051ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X221121051Review of Public Personnel AdministrationKwon and Kim-Goh
Kwon and Kim-Goh 755
A large number of local governments pursue a variety of innovative work arrange-
ments for their employees to satisfy their distinctive needs and preferences and
improve job performance. Such innovative work programs include flexible work
arrangements (FWA) that allow employees to perform work without the constraints of
time and location, such as flextime, compressed workweek, and telework (Caillier,
2013; Kwon et al., 2019). Since the Telework Enhancement Act (TEA) was passed in
2010, the public sector has customized the traditional work arrangement to telework,
which allows workers to perform work during any part of regular, paid hours, at home,
or at an approved alternative worksite (e.g., telework center; TEA, 2010). Telework
provides organizations, employees, and even society with numerous benefits, includ-
ing an increased work-family balance through flexible work hours and/or locations,
improved climate protection and energy sustainability due to employees driving less,
reduced overhead costs of maintaining physical worksites, and ensuring employees’
safety during the pandemic such as the COVID-19 crisis (Mahler, 2012; Overmyer,
2011; Perez et al., 2004; Wadsworth et al., 2010). Due to increasing numbers of a new
generation of workers, rising pollution, high real estate and utility costs, limited avail-
ability of worksites and parking, and/or global pandemic issues, many local govern-
ments are permitting telework for their employees (e.g., Kwon & Jeon, 2017; OECD,
2020) and the trend is expected to continue.
Despite its potential benefits to employees and organizations, telework poses man-
agerial and cultural challenges and other constraints that may undermine the effective-
ness of telework programs. Monitoring teleworkers who work remotely can be a major
challenge for supervisors and managers (Kwon & Jeon, 2020; S. Y. Lee & Hong, 2011;
Wadsworth et al., 2010). The physical separation of workforce may negatively affect
workplace culture, such as non-teleworker resentment, antagonism toward telework-
ers, and a lower level of cooperation and teamwork (Mahler, 2012). Moreover, tele-
workers often have difficulty in separating work from personal lives and experience
feelings of social isolation due to the lack of face-to-face interactions with supervisors
and coworkers (Kwon & Jeon, 2020; Weinert et al., 2015). Teleworkers are often
unclear about what is expected of them, what objectives they are supposed to meet,
and whether they are sufficiently performing their tasks and duties unless their organi-
zations have a performance-oriented culture with clear performance goals (Igbaria &
Guimaraes, 1999; Overmyer, 2011; Tavares, 2015). These potential challenges can
become major obstacles to the effectiveness of telework programs and may lead to the
failure to achieve the promised worker outcomes of telework programs—for example,
increased job satisfaction and job performance.
Recently, a number of studies have attempted to examine the effects of telework in
federal government agencies (Bae & Kim, 2016; Kwon & Jeon, 2020; D. Lee & Kim,
2016; Mahler, 2012; Overmyer, 2011). For instance, Bae and Kim (2016) examined the
impact of telework on federal employee job satisfaction, Lee and Kim (2016) studied
how telework eligibility, participation, and managerial support affected federal tele-
worker’s and non-teleworker’s job satisfaction, and Kwon and Jeon (2020) examined

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