Telecommuting continues to grow year after year, despite some high-profile stories to the contrary, such as Yahoo!’s decision a couple of years ago to eliminate telecommuting options.
In fact, some analysts predict that 30 percent of workers in industrialized countries will be telecommuting within just a few years[i]. It’s already higher than that in some industries and regions.
When allowing telecommuting, employers benefit by saving money and by increasing productivity. Money is saved via reductions in overhead, fewer employee absences, and reduced turnover (due to higher employee morale and greater work flexibility). Productivity is increased as well; eliminating commuting time often results in employees working more hours from home. Some employees also make it a point to be more productive in order to prove they’re meeting all the expectations of the job—and ensure they don’t lose out on the coveted benefit of telecommuting.
Here are some of the trends we’ve seen in telecommuting in recent years:
- Employees are increasingly willing to sacrifice other perks to be able to telecommute. A few are even willing to sacrifice a portion of their salary for the increased flexibility that working from home offers.
- Telecommuting is becoming more common in fields it was previously not associated with, such as science and engineering.
- We are also seeing an increase in telecommuting for government employees[ii].
- Employers are increasingly offering occasional telecommuting options for employees who previously were expected to be on the worksite full-time. Telecommuting even one day per week is seen as a good benefit and can be a recruiting tool.
- The age and gender of the typical telecommuter is now a male in his 40s[iii]. The old stereotype for telecommuting was that it was reserved primarily for young mothers, but this is certainly no longer the case.
- Many employers are embracing telecommuting as a way to show their commitment to improving the environment. (Telecommuting means fewer cars on the roads and, thus, less pollution. It also means less electricity used at the office—especially if some offices are no longer necessary.)
- Employers that embrace telecommuting are focusing more and more on technology:
- First, technology enables telecommuting.
- Reliable, fast, home Internet connections allow employees to stay connected.
- Good VPN software allows employees to access secure employer networks.
- Teleconferencing and video conferencing programs keep geographically separated teams in constant communication.
- Advancing mobile technology means that work can be done even from phones—further expanding the areas where telecommuting can occur.
- Second, but no less important, employers must prioritize data security and new technologies that ensure it—no small feat with a dispersed workforce. Unsecured devices and wireless networks must be effectively managed.
- First, technology enables telecommuting.
- Telecommuting is increasingly being used as part of an employer’s emergency response plan. When employees are enabled (and set up) to work from home, often some operations can continue even if external events (such as severe storms) keep employees from coming into the office.
- Shared or community workspaces are becoming more and more popular. They’ve been around for years, but as telecommuting grows, so does the need for workspaces where telecommuters can get the missing social interactions that an office used to provide. This is especially true for those who telecommute full-time and miss the social aspects of work.
- In less than a decade, telecommuting has moved from a perk that was rare to one that is common—so common that the majority of employers now offer it[iv].
Do you allow employees to telecommute? Do your employees telecommute full-time? Perhaps your organization consists solely of a geographically dispersed “virtual” workforce? Tell us your experiences in the comments section below.
This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.
[i] “TechCast, a prominent George Washington University Think Tank, forecasts that 30% of workers across industrialized countries will be telecommuting by 2019.” FlexJobs.com: http://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/current-trends-of-telecommuting/
[ii] GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com: http://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics
About Bridget Miller:
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.