Telecommuting Still Treading Water

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Six Tips on Introducing a Telework Program

Important tips to ensure your telecommuting program is a success.

Baseball players who can run, hit for average, hit for power and are adept at both catching and throwing are known as five-tool players. Telework could be called the five-tool player of telecom - it is green, often increases productivity and reduces costs, improves employee satisfaction and enlarges the potential pool of quality employees by eliminating geographical limitations.

But, like a five-tool player who isn't fun to go on road trips with or who doesn't play team ball, there are negatives to telecommuting that have kept it from becoming the co-equal of office-bound employment. For instance, some folks don't perform well in isolated areas and some can't excel because the remote tools don't allow them to.

That telework is at somewhat of a static position doesn't keep it from making news. Federal Computer Week reports that Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew last week sent out a memo reminding federal offices that they must comply with Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA) safety requirements when enacting the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The story offers six bulleted points describing these requirements.

Despite all the good buzz about telework, it continues to struggle. Federal telework satisfaction levels are a less-than-inspiring 37 percent, according to a column by John Salamone and Crystal Irish Rogall. He is the managing consultant at Federal Management Partners and she is a consultant at FMP.

And the attraction isn't growing. Smart Planet reported last week that WorldatWork found that telework had actually receded in the United States between 2008 and last year. WAW, according to the story, found that the number of people spending at least one day a month working from a remote location was 33.7 million in 2008 and 26.2 million in 2010. (The total number of employed Americans shrunk during that time from 155 million to 153.4 million.) The good news in the study is that those folks who are telecommuting are doing so more often: 84 percent of teleworkers did so for more than one day per month in 2010, up from 72 percent in 2008.

The demand still is there, however, at least according to a study by the Telework Research Network. The study, sponsored by Citrix Online and New Ways of Working, point to great potential demand:

While only 2.9 million US employees teleworked on a regular basis in 2009, this new analysis shows that 63 million Americans hold jobs that are telework-compatible and 50 million want to telework, at least part of the time. Based on current trends, regular telecommuters will total 4.9 million by 2016, a 69% increase from the current level.

By contrast, interest seems to be picking up in England. The CBI/Pertemps Employment Trends Survey revealed that 46 percent of employees in London offer telework options to staffers. The key comparative numbers, however: The figure was 11 percent in 2006 and 14 percent in 2008. One example of how effective telework is in England: 15,000 out of 92,000 employees now telework, according to the amusingly named Powwownow conference-calling firm.

Baseball general managers always are on the lookout for five-tool players. The hope is that they will get their issues solved and start really delivering on the extravagant promise. The same can be said for telework.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 9, 2011 11:20 AM Rich Norton Rich Norton  says:

Interesting post. Why do you think companies are so reluctant to allow teleworking given the obvious benefits? Is it simply because they wouldn't be able to keep tabs on what their employees were doing all the time, or something else?


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