In 2010, just over 4% of the American workforce worked primarily from home, and around 10% of workers telecommuted at least one day a week,according to statistics reported in The Christian Science Monitor.
And that one day a week is often known as “casual Friday,” regardless of what the calendar says.
That 10% figure includes people who are self-employed and those who do unpaid work for a family business, so it’s a generous estimate. In demographic terms, the “typical” telecommuter is 49 years old, is college-educated and salaried, has a professional or management role, and earns $58,000 in a company with more than 100 employees. The typical telecommuter is slightly more likely to be male, and is more likely to be white than black or Hispanic. By 2016, US telecommuters are expected to number 4.9 million.
The industries in which telecommuting works best include information technology, finance, media, and PR. Even in manufacturing operations, higher-level administrative functions can be done by telecommuters. The federal government is trying to increase telecommuting, not so much as a desired perk, but as a way to address disaster recovery after a natural or manmade disaster.
Telecommuting in IT
Globalization, outsourcing, and increased use of co-location facilities are three factors that make IT a reasonable industry for telecommuters. Most barriers to telecommuting for IT professionals are managerial rather than technical. Industry analysts believe that those barriers need to come down, however, because top IT talent today is increasingly demanding telecommuting as a job benefit. But some IT jobs are more suited to telecommuting than others.
Hardware management, business planning, and many supervisory roles require workers who are where the action is. On the other hand, IT service desk functions and code writing are a better fit for working remotely. If your IT role requires desk-side support, then telecommuting won’t work unless IT services can be delivered via remote desktop or mobile devices. For many IT workers, telecommuting a couple of days a week is a good balance of getting in “face time” and being able to work from home on projects that benefit from more solitude than the office delivers.
Niraj Jetly, CIO of Edenred USA told Computerworld, “A task that requires four to five hours of concentration can easily take two business days in the office.”
Sprint is another company that uses telecommuting, but in Sprint’s case, the issue they’re trying to address is office overcrowding. On any given day, more than 30% of Sprint’s 2,500 IT workers work from home, according to Computerworld. Arizona’s Universal Technical Institute is another organization that has embraced telecommuting. They hire telecommuters for applications development because it’s not always easy convincing top developers to uproot and move.
Benefits of Telecommuting
When you telecommute, every day can be “Take Your Dog to Work Day.”
Telecommuters report better health and lower levels of stress, which leads to improved organizational performance, according to studies by Penn State. Additionally, telecommuting cuts the time, costs, and energy consumption involved with commuting, and can improve the work / life balance for people who have caregiving responsibilities.
Most obstacles to telecommuting are organizational, having to do with managerial reluctance to give up direct supervision of workers and a fear of slacking. However, when the impact of telecommuting has been evaluated empirically, it’s associated with higher productivity, increased retention, and decreased absenteeism. It also allows more people with disabilities to pursue professional careers.
Drawbacks of Telecommuting
But telecommuting isn’t “all beer and skittles,” as Thomas Hughes would have said. The biggest problem with telecommuting is how it is often used to facilitate work hours on top of the traditional 40-hour workweek, allowing employers to increase demands on salaried workers.
And while telecommuting theoretically could help those who want to combine work and family more conveniently, that doesn’t always play out in real life. When employers allow employees to work at home, they may eventually raise expectations for work availability during evenings and on weekends, which doesn’t exactly help with work / life balance.
Successful telecommuting requires clear policies, managers who trust their staff even when they can’t physically watch them, technological tools for connectivity, and a certain amount of regular face time at the office. Samanage can’t help you with suspicious managers, but we can help you with the technological tools that make delivery of IT services possible for telecommuters. Samanage is software as a service, and includes mobile apps, remote desktop control, and other powerful features that allow comprehensive IT service desk and IT asset management, whether you’re working down the hall, down the street, or miles away.