Telecommuting began decades ago as a theory that could save time, money and the environment. Now, with the advent of numerous technological breakthroughs, millions of people telecommute every day, giving them more personal time and giving their employer substantial cost-cutting opportunities.

Earning a living once required people to sit in their vehicle for hours every morning, inching their way to their employer’s office. The physical and emotional stress of the commute took a toll on a worker’s productivity, job satisfaction, and well-being. After a standard workday, people returned to their cars, sat in traffic for a couple more hours, and got home to spend some time unwinding and then trying to tend to personal responsibilities and pleasures. That scenario has changed.

Telecommuting takes millions of vehicles off the road every day, helping to slow the degradation of the environment. It also saves employees the cost of fuel, vehicle wear-and-tear, and personal time. The reduced stress and increased individual freedom results in productive employees that feel fulfilled in their personal and professional life.

Companies that embrace telecommuters realize remarkable savings in facility expenses, utilities, and regulatory compliance, making the employment model a win-win proposition in many settings. The new way of working does not fit everyone. Personal work habits and living conditions can rule-out telecommuting for some employees.

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Some jobs that require face-to-face interaction, specialized equipment, or stringent security measures also rule-out telecommuting. Furthermore, some companies have a culture that cannot accept telecommuting right now. Other disadvantages of telecommuting involve the loss of social interaction in the workplace.

Although technology seamlessly bridges the gap between the corporate office and the remote worker, the lack of physical presence can inhibit the formation of coherent teams. Similarly, the isolation of the home-based worker can lead to strong emotional feelings that can become counterproductive if left unchecked.

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For most businesses and employees, the benefits of telecommuting outweigh its risks, leading to the transformation of the workplace and the workforce. Companies that carefully plan the implementation of a telecommuting policy and supporting technology and employees who have the character and willingness to work from home will reap the rewards made possible by technology and environmental necessity.

Technology will continue making telecommuting easier and more productive, encouraging an increasing number of companies and workers to change the way they think about employment. The available Internet bandwidth and speed will continue to increase, and the hardware and software tools that support telecommuting will continue to improve.

Innovations will likely serve to unify the distributed workforce and relive some of the negative emotional aspects of home-based work. The global workforce and marketplace might have the greatest effect on telecommuting. First, companies will continue to feel pressured to cut costs to gain or preserve a competitive advantage.

Also, companies will realize they can hire telecommuters located anywhere in the world, helping them find workers with desirable skill sets. Companies might discover they can use telecommuting to acquire low-cost labor not available in their local labor pool. Finally, employees can expect to become happier, more productive, and personally fulfilled as they gain more time to spend with their favorite pastimes, family members, and friends.