The Stressful Implications of Remote E-Working: Evidence from Europe

  •  Ylenia Curzi    
  •  Tommaso Fabbri    
  •  Barbara Pistoresi    


This paper investigates the importance of different modes of spatial flexibility as well as of the distinction between autonomy and discretion to find plausible explanations of the so-called autonomy paradox, which maintains that the more the job autonomy that remote e-workers have the greater the effort they put into their work with adverse effects on work-related stress. Using multiple regressions, we test the hypotheses regarding the direct influence of autonomy, discretion and work intensification as well as their interaction effects on occupational stress in two subsamples of 1.380 home-based e-workers and 2.574 mobile ones drawn from the 2015 European Working Conditions Survey. The main findings are as follows. Home-based e-workers perceive that autonomy (namely over work goals) directly decreases occupational stress and buffers work intensification (i.e. autonomy over work goals and in the organizational choices of their department/company). In the context of remote e-work, discretion is more likely to boost the stressful impact of work intensification when work is mobile. At the same time, we do not find that autonomy increases work intensification, neither among mobile e-workers, nor among home-based e-workers (for whom it buffers the adverse impact of work intensification). In summary, this study does not confirm the existence of an autonomy paradox associated with remote e-work. Contrarily, it suggests that such a paradox is more likely to surface when research relies on conceptual frameworks that ambiguously define autonomy in terms of what should be more properly conceptualized as discretion.

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