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Home  > Article

Telecommuting: The Way of the Future?

By Jianna Schroeder

Instead of commuting to your job every day, you might look at the option of having your job come to you.

Telecommuting is a work arrangement in which an employee's work week is divided between the office and home or another remote location.  Most often people telecommute one day out of a five day work week.  Successful telecommuting programs are often found in companies and jobs that are based on results and have workers who do not need constant supervision.


The tools traditionally used to telecommute include but are not limited to; laptop computers, virtual private networks, videoconferencing, internet, phone, and the company's intranet. Telecommuting has many benefits including environmental, money savings for the company, ability to employ people that are homebound, and it's a way for companies to keep valuable employees even when life may take them to a different location.  There are also drawbacks that have been pointed out by some such as; distractions at home interfering with productivity, not enough contact with the office, loss of corporate control, and communication barriers. 

Telecommuting has been around since the 1970's but recently has come back into the forefront as an option to workers.  Due to the rising gas prices and other current social factors many companies are offering telecommuting as an option to employees.  In fact in recent news, a bill has been approved by a voice vote permitting many federal employees to telecommute two days every two weeks. This bill dictates that federal agencies must make policies enabling eligible employees to work away from the office as long as it does not affect the employee's performance or the agencies operations.  Now that the federal government is catching up with private companies policies, how soon before everyone has the option to telecommute?

Recent studies show that there are between 2 million and 40 million U.S.workers who currently telecommute for part of their work week.  The most successful telecommuters have jobs that have the following attributes:

*Easy to work from a remote location

* Able to work without direct supervision.

* The supervisor of employee believes telecommuting is a successful way to go about doing business

* Employee feels comfortable with telecommuting, i.e. be able to manage time, be organized, and set their own deadlines.

Jobs ideally suited for telecommuting are information or knowledge based.  Some examples would be web designers, IT people, accountants, and writers.

There are numerous upsides to telecommuting.  Currently, saving money on gas would probably be number one, but there are many other reasons companies support this type of work arrangement.   Telecommuting gives employees a sense of freedom as well as makes them feel as if there employer trusts them.  This strengthens the relationship between employer and employee. 

Telecommuting also has been found to be good for the family. It makes it easier for single parents to take care of their children and allows multitasking and flexibility in a workers day.  Telecommuting has been shown in studies to not harm but build relationships with co-workers and managers as well as improve productivity. It is suggested that employees who telecommute are generally happier with there work situation. 

Recently "living green" has come into the spotlight in the media as well as in people's everyday lives. It is estimated by the American Electronics Association that 1.35 billion gallons of gasoline would be conserved if everyone who worked in the United States could telecommute 2 days a week. The positive affects of doing this include; smaller amount pollution, less traffic, and reduced fuel consumption.  The Environmental Protection Agency reports that conserving all that gasoline would lead to 26 billion pounds of carbon dioxide not being released into the air. Thus, telecommuting contributes to society's efforts to live a greener lifestyle as well as preserve our environment.

Some drawbacks have been cited when it comes to telecommuting.  Sometimes the distractions of home life can get in the way of being productive (however most studies show that people who telecommute 1 or 2 days a week do no have this problem).  Some workers find their work load increased greatly by working at home.  Also, privacy can become a real issue with telecommunication. The safety precautions taken in an office building or the intranet of a business are hard to secure outside of the work place, which could be a real disadvantage to some companies.

So, you want to know which companies support telecommuting?  As mentioned before, most federal employees will soon have the option to telecommute.  A great website to check out for a comprehensive list of companies that have telecommuting programs can be found at http://sohojobs.org/employers.html.  ; Soho Job's website includes companies as varied as AT&T (phone company), Creative Freelance (specializes in outsourcing designers writers, etc.), Fannie Mae (financing), JCPenney (clothing), and Dell (computers). 

What's more, in the Fortune 100 best Companies to Work For list in 2006 10 out of the 100 companies have regular telecommuters. These companies include Cisco Systems (ranked #6), eBay (ranked #69), Goldman Sachs (ranked #9), and Yahoo (ranked #87).  The telecommuters at these companies work at home at least 20% of the time. With the rising gas prices, the focus of many companies on mental health and productivity in their workers, and the federal government supporting telecommuting, it is clear that this trend is on the rise.  Amid all of the technology we have and the policies currently being implemented, telecommuting may very well be common practice rather than an anomaly in the years to come. 

 Jianna Schroeder is a freelance writer.







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