Telecommuting Gains Ground

Many Americans feel that a more productive and happier worklife can be better achieved at home.


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Given the choice between a pay raise and an opportunity to telecommute, one-third will choose home sweet home, a poll from the Positively Broadband Campaign revealed.

The organization, created and run by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), surveyed 1,000 individuals in April 2002 and the results indicate that 54 percent of U.S. employees think that telecommuting would improve the quality of their lives. Among those that commute an hour or more a day, this view jumped to 66 percent.

Almost half of the respondents indicated that both their home lives and careers would benefit from telecommuting: 43 percent felt that they would be better spouses or parents, and 46 percent thought their quality of work would improve.

The survey found employee concerns to be minimal: 20 percent of respondents feared that they would not have enough contact with their fellow workers. However, 60 percent of those with this concern said they would be more likely to telecommute if, through technology, they could have immediate face-to-face contact.

Similar findings come from 1,170 telephone interviews conducted by the International Telework Association and Council (ITAC) between July 30 and Sept. 10, 2001. Based on the data, the ITAC estimates the U.S. telecommuting workforce to have increased 17 percent from the previous year to 28.8 million.

The survey revealed that more than two-thirds of teleworkers express greater job satisfaction, and almost 80 percent feel a greater commitment to their organization with most saying that they plan to stay with their employer. Notably, almost three-quarters of at-home teleworkers reported a major increase in productivity and work quality.

"Employees achieve a greater balance of work and family life, employers gain the benefits of lower overhead costs and increased productivity, and all of us continue to reap the rewards of less traffic congestion and pollution," said John Edwards, former president of ITAC.

What makes employers resistant to a telecommuting workforce is the inability to hold spontaneous meetings and the traditional notion that employees must be on site to serve customers and perform other important tasks. However, the infiltration of high-end technology — broadband connections, powerful computers loaded with the most popular work apps, Web-conferencing software, and Internet-based tools and utilities — into millions of American homes alleviates employer concerns by enabling workers to emulate a productive work environment.

"Studies show the frustration of slow speed network connections is one of the biggest show stoppers to widespread adoption of e-work. If employers feel that their employees are losing productivity at home, they will shun this option. The good news is that high speed Internet access is now widely available. Putting broadband and e-work together is a winning combination." said Harris N. Miller, president of the ITAA.

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