Telecommuting in Higher Education: An Examination of the Decision Making Factors

Phyllis Joy Snodgrass, University of Tennessee - Knoxville


The purpose in conducting this study was to research some of the factors that influence the decision whether or not to adopt a telecommuting program in the higher education setting. The study examined some organizational characteristics and the perceived constraints and motivators that could influence adoption (or not) of a telecommuting program at an institution. The study also examined the current perceptions of success of recruiting and retaining information technology staff at each institution. A post hoc survey was developed by the researcher to gather information about the motivators and constraints involved in adoption of telecommuting programs.

A total of 102 respondents from a sample of 181 (population of 347) provided an overall response rate of 62.19%. The study was conducted exclusively in the higher education setting.

Descriptive statistics, including frequencies, percentages, and means, were used to report demographic information and to also analyze some of the research questions. Further analysis of the survey information included Spearman’s Rho, t test, and chi-square.

Major findings of the study were: (a) Research University I institutions were found to be more likely to have a telecommuting program; Master’s Universities and Colleges I’s comprised the highest percentage of non-adopters followed by Associate of Arts Colleges, (b) budget cuts had a significant effect on recruiting success but no statistically significant effect was found on retention success, (c) adopters and non-adopters of telecommuting reported that "improvement of overall (employee) benefits" was or would be the primary motivator for adoption of telecommuting, (d) adopters reported cost of program implementation and legal issues as the primary constraints to adoption (e) non-adopters cited various reasons for not adopting that included a program was in the planning states, an informal program was already in place, there was not perceived need or suitable jobs, and negative issues would be or had been raised about telecommuting, (f) 62.5% of existing telecommuting programs were periodically evaluated, (g) the adoption of a telecommuting program was not related to more positive results in recruiting and retention of information technology staff, and (g) correlation coefficients indicated a positive relationship between the perceived level of success in recruiting and retention of IT staff and the success of the adopted telecommuting program, but not a statistically significant one.