When we first started research on telecommuting in 1973 our focus was on whether telecommuting was practical in the real world, never mind the optimal amount of telecommuting. I insisted that the research involved testing telecommuting in an actual company, one whose bottom line was purely business oriented. The question of the optimal amount of telecommuting/teleworking didn’t come up because we were concerned with whether it was practical at all.
In those days the typical telecommuter was a person who worked using a computer terminal that was connected by wires to a mainframe computer somewhere. The idea of the person doing this from home was simply not practical; telecommunications cost — the cost of connecting that computer terminal to a distant mainframe via telephone connections all day — was simply too high. So in those mid-1970s days we concentrated on people working in what we called satellite offices: typically suburban offices solely owned by the employing company for use by its employees. Only after the arrival of personal computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s was it practical to think about home based telecommuting.
Continue reading What is the optimal amount of telecommuting?
Over the years I have often said that telecommuting is like a tide, not a tidal wave, when asked why telecommuting is not an overnight sensation. Imperceptible, perhaps, but sure. Yes, the telecommuting tide is rising steadily, as it has been for years. Witness an opinion column by Robin Rauzi in the 2 March 2016 edition of the Los Angeles Times in which she writes:
Labor statistics show telecommuting on the rise. In 2010 9.5% of employees worked from home at least once a week, and high-speed Internet connectivity has made that easier since then. (Ever wonder why traffic is the worst on Thursdays? That’s the day people are least likely to work from home.)
Continue reading The tide is rising
How many teleworkers are there today? Who knows? As I noted in a previous blog it is hard to count teleworkers. One problem is that the definition of teleworker/telecommuter varies from country to country and counter to counter. Full-timers working at home for a distant employer are the easy core. It’s at the edges where the counting gets difficult — and the definitions differ.
Another, growing problem in the teleworker counting business is the simple fact that contemporary technology has made it really hard to count reliably. An excellent overview of the problem is given in an article in the New York Times by Cliff Zukin of Rutgers University. Titled What’s the Matter With Polling?, the article paints the picture of the rapid decrease in accessibility of your average pollee. The polling business is changing for the worse
Continue reading How many teleworkers — who knows?
Those who wish to find an unimpeachable estimate of the telecommuters in the US these days have a problem. For example, my own forecast of the number of US teleworkers (mostly telecommuters) in the US at the end of 2014 says that they will constitute 30% of the workforce (40+ million teleworkers) and account for reducing vehicle travel by 140 billion miles over what would happen without telecommuting. On the other hand, the National Study of Employers run by the Family and Work Institute claims that “today more employers are providing occasional telecommuting (67%) for at least some employees than in 2008 (50%).” On the third hand, Top Management Degrees claims that there will be 3.9 million teleworkers in the US by 2016 — an order of magnitude less than my forecast for 2014.
So which, if any, of these estimates is right? The answer is: it depends.
Continue reading How many telecommuters are there now?
We’ve been hinting at it for years but now there’s a study that claims that telecommuters are more ethical than their in-office colleagues. I was alerted to the study by an article on the GigaOm website titled: How to make your team more ethical: Let them telecommute. One of the three key findings in the 17 August 2011 report by Ethisphere was:
Sixty-eight percent of responding companies allow their employees to work from home on a regular basis. Of those, 89 percent reported having no ethics violations during the past two years among their work-from-home employees.
Although the overall study was focused on the impact of open offices on ethics, this was an interesting result. Ethisphere surveyed more than 200 companies to arrive at their conclusion. Two primary factors in this ethical superiority of home-based workers were, according to Ethisphere (I’m paraphrasing a little):
- Lower levels of temptation as a consequence of less frequent mischief opportunities away form the office; and
- Greater concern that any straying from the path of righteousness might end in a call to come back to the dreaded office.
That is: “If I do my job and don’t screw up I can keep on working like this, feeling more in control of my life and, wonderfully, avoid those grinding commutes!”
Sounds good to me.
One of the most confusing issues about telecommuting is that of establishing the number of telecommuters that exist in the world or in your own country. Part of this is a result of the varying definitions of telecommuting/teleworking; apparently not everyone in the world uses my definitions. For example, is someone who works at home in addition to working at his/her office the same day a telecommuter? My definition would say “no”. That definition, when used in a survey, would produce a lower number than the more inclusive one that allows us both home and in–office work on the same day. You can find more about my definitions elsewhere on this website.
With reservations like this in mind you might want to investigate three new surveys of telecommuters. Continue reading Counting telecommuters