The Revolution Has Been Delayed

Why Isn’t Telecommuting More Widespread?

Telecommuting is the great work innovation that never took hold.

For more than a quarter century, study after study has reported that many American workers would prefer to work from home at least part of the time, and that they would be more productive were they to trade the office for a home office.

But apparently, telecommuting is more easily imagined than actually done. Even with all the ballyhooing about what a great advancement telecommuting would be, it is estimated that only two percent of the U.S. workforce actually works full-time at home.

The Telecommute Research Network in Carlsbad estimates that as many as 30 million Americans may work out of the office each week. That includes mobile workers, those employed in home businesses and others who work full-time or as little as one of two days a week at home.

Even that means there is a huge gap between the number of workers wanting to work at home and the number that actually accomplish that. A new study by Harris Interactive showed that 62 percent of workers want the option to telecommute. The survey of 2,500 adults was done for TeamViewer, a Tampa, Fla., based developer of remote control and online meetings software.

The study also revealed that the 54 percent of workers believe their own behavior as a telecommuter would make them more productive than they are as office workers. 32 percent said they believed they would be much more productive as a telecommuter.

Meanwhile, these same individuals see technology leading the way to telecommuting. The emergence of smart phones and tablets were noted by 53 percent as accelerators into the world of telecommuting. Another study shows that telecommuting gives employees more of a sense of freedom at work, whether or not they actually telecommute. Simply having the flexibility to spend a day a week at home to accommodate family demands often is enough to make workers feel better about their jobs.

At the same time, the study indicated that working one or two days a week at home does not damage relations between themselves and their supervisors. Full-time telecommuters, however, are urged to develop new skills to help them maintain satisfactory relationships with their supervisors.

Even when there are concerns that telecommuting will lead to abuse and that workers won’t be as productive, nearly every telecommuter surveyed believed they were more efficient and more productive in their telecommuting role.

The most telling evidence that telecommuting is highly prized might come from the things TeamViewer learned that workers were willing to give up to work at home. An estimated 34 percent said they would give up use of social media if they could work at home, while 30 percent agreed to give up texting, 25 percent would surrender their smart phone, 17 percent would forego a salary increase, and 15 percent would be willing to give up half their vacation days.

So you have to wonder why telecommuting – which is so desired by the workforce and carries with the advantage of more efficient and productive workers – isn’t a higher priority for employers.

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