Favorable Statistics for the Future

Companies that adopt telecommuting will contribute to a growing trend where employers use the new employment model as a way to develop competitive advantages. Statistical evidence seems to prove that telecommuting will become the predominate way of working.

After growing by 100 percent since 2005, the number of telecommuters continues to rise, even as the workforce shrinks. Statistical data also show that more than forty percent of all workers will telecommute by 2016. When interviewed, more than one-third of the workforce indicates they would choose to work at home rather than receive a salary increase.

Meanwhile, the outlook for ordinary workers continues to decline. The time and expense of going to and from work heavily weigh on employees and their families. More than one-tenth of all workers have already changed jobs to reduce their commuting time, and one-half of all workers complain of a worsening commuting experience.

Employees increasingly feel positive about telecommuting for reasons other than avoiding the daily commute. For example, more than two-thirds of employees say they produce more while working remotely than they do while working at the company office.

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The Society for Human Resource Management substantiates the benefits of telecommuting for employees and employers as the reason 83 percent say telecommuting will increase in popularity over the next five years. Similar research shows that nearly 90 percent expect to see a general increase of flexible work arrangements. Almost half of employers substantiate the research findings by planning to give their workers more flexibility in their style of work.

Why Telecommuting Will Become More Common

Telecommuting will continue increasing in popularity because of the cost-cutting pressure companies feel. Companies in developed countries face rising facilities costs that put them at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in under-developed nations. Costs of insurance, utilities, furniture, security, and supplies only begin to tell the story of why employers increasingly implement telecommuting programs.

In fact, the reduced overhead costs associated with telecommuting will provide an incentive for more companies to adopt the new employment model. The incentive for employees to adopt telecommuting as a way to work also continues to increase. Congested roads and neglected transportation infrastructures create a discouraging environment for ordinary workers.

The stress of the daily commute alone has given many workers the impetus they need to find alternative ways to earn a living. Add to the mix the time spent in traffic, the volatility of gas prices, the labor unrest of public employees, and skyrocketing public transportation costs, and companies have a workforce as eager to join the telecommuting revolution as their employers.

As a winning solution for both employers and employees, telecommuting will become more common because it serves the interests of employers and employees. Companies enjoy the increased productivity of telecommuters while simultaneously reducing their overhead costs. Employers also benefit through improved employee retention, lower recruiting and training costs, fewer sick days, and a global labor pool.

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Employers can search the entire globe for qualified workers with the needed skills, talents, education, and experience. Telecommuting can also reduce compliance costs for disability accommodations, labor laws, and other regulations. Employees see telecommuting as a way to improve their quality of life without sacrificing their income.

Formerly trapped into living in the largest metropolitan areas, with high living costs, workers can move to less congested or more affordable areas while keeping the same job. Employees who work from their home office report higher productivity and a greater level of job satisfaction, so they tend to hold their jobs longer and do better work.

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Even young workers, often known to leave jobs because of rising rent, wage issues, long commutes, and general discontent, can use telecommuting as a way to satisfy their personal and professional needs without finding a new employer. All the advantages telecommuting offers employers and employees depend on technology.

The availability of cloud-based hosting, software, and conferencing applications gives mobile and remote workers the ability to interact with coworkers and clients, eliminating much of the need for in-person meetings to exchange documents, share information, and collaborate on products. By all accounts, telecommuting offers a win-win alternative to traditional employment that will soon become the way most people work.

Potential Obstacles to Telecommuting

The bright future of telecommuting does not come without risks. Companies that have unrealistic expectations put their telecommuting programs at risk. Many firms might overestimate how many employees they can convert into telecommuters, hoping to maximize the advantage of having a smaller headquarters.

In reality, companies will still need office space to conduct meetings and to provide workspace for regular employees who do not meet the requirements of the telecommuting program. Also, telecommuters cannot fill jobs that require special equipment or security measures.

Telecommuting does not magically solve problems with human resources. Although most studies show that telecommuters have a high rate of job satisfaction happiness, and productivity, conflicting reports suggest otherwise. Employers can safely expect varying degrees of satisfaction and performance among telecommuters, similar to the way employees in the office differ.

Managers must proactively identify and resolve performance and morale issues among telecommuters, to ensure the continuity of the telecommuting program and the company. Other obstacles to telecommuting involve the expectations employers have for their employees.

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Bosses and coworkers can develop the expectation that telecommuters respond to emails, perform random tasks, and talk to customers at any time of the day on any day of the week. Although the telecommuting program should have training designed to help employers and employees manage their boundaries, the potential for abuse exists.

Of course, sometimes, telecommuters might deliberately take on additional responsibilities and work harder and longer to justify having the privilege of telecommuting. Inhibitions in company culture can also create problems for the telecommuter. Some people feel reluctant to contact home-based workers, even during business hours, for fear of interrupting family life or causing an inconvenience.

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Although training should alleviate such inhibitions, the feelings could undermine efforts to maintain a collaborative work environment. Fears of professional and social isolation can impede the adoption of telecommuting. Many companies that believe creativity and innovation require in-person interactions among team members, highlighting concerns that telecommuting technology might never compensate for the loss of social interaction in the workplace.

Although telecommuting does not offer solutions to every potential workplace problem, companies seem to feel like they have much to gain and little to lose by transitioning to a remote workforce. As time passes, proponents of telecommuting will likely develop new ways to address the substantial social obstacles that, right now, seem to throttle the acceptance of telecommuting in the business world.