Teleworkers are a booming part of the American workforce. In 1997, there were 11.6 million Americans employed by a company but working from home. Today that number has hit 23.5 million, according to research from the Dieringer Research Group, which compiled the 2003 American Interactive Consumer Survey. The ITAC, or International Telework Association and Council, revealed the study.
''This latest research quantifies what we have believed about the growth of teleworking in America,'' says Tim Kane, president of both ITAC and the Kinetic Workplace. ''Telework is coming of age, as the enabling technology, tools and training become available.''
Teleworkers are defined as people who work outside the company's main location. This includes a home office, a satellite office or a hotel room while the worker is on the road for business. This recent study deals with teleworkers who work out of their homes.
Bob Smith, executive director of ITAC, says technology, like broadband service and instant messaging, is making it easier for people to work outside the office.
''It's a variety of technologies,''says Smith. ''It's the use of email. It's the growing use of broadband. And our research shows that while broadband is still in a minority, in terms of how people connect, it also demonstrates that when you do have broadband in the home, people look at working in the home no differently than working in the office. They have all the capabilities, in terms of speed and access for email, research, communication and collaboration with people in remote locations.''
Smith adds that they're seeing explosive growth in instant messaging. ''It's quickly gone from nothing to a very high percentage of people using IM for their business communications,'' he adds.
And Smith says he foresees teleworking continuing to increase.
''To me, there's a variety of incentives for it to continue,'' Smith says. ''Commuting in metropolitan areas is not going to get any better. And people want to be able to maintain business continuity in terms of natural and man-made disasters. The technology also is making it easier and cheaper to keep people connected in remote locations. And we can't forget the incentive, particularly with large organizations, with saving real estate office space by encouraging people to work at home.
Smith adds, ''There's so many personal and business savings that the number of teleworkers should definitely continue to increase.''