Telecommuting Growth Slows - What Does It Mean


Though many well-respected futurists and organizations, including Forrester Research (and us), had forecast that by now, we would see high percentages of people telecommuting. The numbers were clearly trending upward. All of us were wrong.

According the latest research from the Telework Research Network, telework (sometimes called ″workshifting″) trends over the past five years reflect some unexpected developments. Telework is growing. In actuality, despite the recession, based on United States Census data, 61 percent more employees considered home their primary place of work in 2009 than in 2005. Census data also show that only 2.9 million employees work from home more than half the time (not including the self-employed).
Surprisingly, that number only represents 2.3 percent of the workforce.

For most organizations, the ability to work from home, sometimes called flex-place is still considered a perk rather than accepted business practice. A few enlightened employers, both private and public sector have built flex-space and flex-place into their culture with very positive consequences. They have been able to hold onto very talented employees, particularly mothers with professional degrees, who otherwise would have left.

More recently, private sector survey data just released by WorldatWork, suggest that while the overall number of teleworkers declined between 2008 and 2010, the frequency of telework increased. According to this respected source, most employees want to telework; almost 80 percent of employees would do so at least part of the time if allowed. Furthermore, 37 percent of non-teleworkers surveyed would even take a pay cut to be able to have more independence in where and how they work.

While the tools and technologies to support telecommuting are readily available, reasonably priced, and easy to use, currently, most companies simply don't have the culture of trust to support flexible work arrangements. It takes measuring performance and productivity, rather than when, where, or how employees work.

In the future, offering workshifting will not be optional. To attract the best and the brightest talent, employers will simply have to "get over it" and focus on desired results.

Herman Trend Alerts are written by Joyce Gioia, a strategic business futurist, Certified Management Consultant, author, and
professional speaker.


Joyce Gioia is a Strategic Business Futurist concentrating on workforce and workplace trends. Joyce is President and CEO of The Herman Group, a firm serving a wide range corporate, trade association and governmental clients on an international basis.

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