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New publication on boundary management during telework

Published: 06-06-2024

What can we learn from older workers about teleworking successfully? A new publication by our team points at five specific tactics that older workers tend to use more than younger workers, with benefits for their work-life balance and productivity during telework. These are (1) setting physical boundaries (e.g. working in a dedicated space at home rather than on the kitchen table), (2) setting digital boundaries (e.g. switching off work-related social media after work time), (2) communicating rules with private contacts (e.g. making agreements when it is ok for kids to interrupt during work time), (4) communicating rules with coworkers (e.g. letting coworkers know when one starts and finishes work so they don't disturb during off-work time), and (5) temporal tactics (setting start and end time for working hours into the personal agenda). Organizations may train (especially younger) workers on these tactics, or encourage intergenerational knowledge sharing on these tactics, in order to maximize the benefits of telework, while minimizing its costs.


The rise of home-based teleworking and the ageing of the workforce constitute two major trends impacting the future of work. Managing these trends well requires a good understanding of how worker age and telework intersect and which mechanisms link age and telework outcomes. We integrated perspectives of boundary theory and the lifespan model of selection, optimization, and compensation and investigated in two studies the relationship between employee age and two telework outcomes (work–life balance and unfinished tasks) as mediated by boundary management tactics aimed at segmenting work and nonwork roles. Across Study 1 (a two-wave study with 172 teleworkers) and Study 2 (a three-wave study with 282 teleworkers), we found positive associations between age and use of segmenting boundary management tactics during telework. We further identified indirect effects of age on higher productivity in terms of fewer unfinished tasks (both studies) and better work–life balance (Study 2) through boundary management tactics use. Robustness checks indicated that age effects remain significant after controlling for a number of demographic characteristics, work and home demands, motivational factors, and self-regulatory skills. Findings suggest that older workers effectively navigate the blurred work-nonwork boundaries in home-based telework using self-regulatory behaviour that supports positive telework outcomes.

You can read the full paper here.