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Telecommuting, e-commuting, e-work, telework, working from home (WFH), or working at home (WAH) is a work arrangement in which employees enjoy flexibility in working location and hours. In other words, the daily commute to a central place of work is replaced by telecommunication links. Many work from home, while others, occasionally also referred to as nomad workers or web commuters utilize mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or myriad other locations. Telework is a broader term, referring to substituting telecommunications for any form of work-related travel, thereby eliminating the distance restrictions of telecommuting.[1] All telecommuters are teleworkers but not all teleworkers are telecommuters. A frequently repeated motto is that "work is something you do, not something you travel to".[2] A successful telecommuting program requires a management style which is based on results and not on close scrutiny of individual employees. This is referred to as management by objectives as opposed to management by observation. The terms telecommuting and telework were coined by Jack Nilles in 1973.[3]

Contents

How Many People Telecommute?

Estimates suggest that over 50 million U.S. workers (about 40% of the working population) could work from home at least part of the time [4] yet, in 2008, only 2.5 million employees (not including the self-employed) considered home their primary place of business.[5]

Occasional telecommuters--those who work remotely (though not necessarily at home) totaled 17.2 million in 2008[6]

Very few companies employ large numbers of home-based full-time staff. The call center industry is one notable exception to this; several U.S.-based call centers employ thousands of home-based workers. For most employees, the option to work from home is granted as an employee benefit; most do so only part of the time.[7]

Technology

The roots of telecommuting lay in early 1970s technology, linking satellite offices to downtown mainframes by dumb terminals using telephone lines as a network bridge. The massive ongoing decrease in cost and increase in performance and usability of personal computers forged the way to decentralize even further, moving the office to the home. By the early 1980s, these branch offices and home workers were able to connect to the company mainframe using personal computers and terminal emulation.

Long distance telework is facilitated by such tools as groupware, virtual private networks, conference calling, videoconferencing, and Voice over IP (VOIP). It can be efficient and useful for companies as it allows staff and workers to communicate over a large distance, saving significant amounts of travel time and cost. As broadband Internet connections become more commonplace, more and more workers have enough bandwidth at home to use these tools to link their home office to their corporate intranet and internal phone networks.

The adoption of local area networks promoted sharing of resources, and client server computing allowed for even greater decentralization. Today, telecommuters can carry laptop PCs around which they can use both at the office and at home (and almost anywhere else). The rise of cloud computing technology and Wi-Fi availability has enabled access to remote servers via a combination of portable hardware and software.[8]

Potential Benefits

Telecommuting offers benefits to communities, employers, and employees.

For communities, telecommuting can offer fuller employment (by increasing the employ-ability of proximal or circumstantially marginalized groups, such as Work at home parents and caregivers, the disabled, retirees, and people living in remote areas), reduces traffic congestion and traffic accidents, relieves the strain on transportation infrastructures, reduces greenhouse gases, saves fuel, reduces energy use, improves disaster preparedness, and reduces terrorism targets.

For companies, telecommuting expands the talent pool, reduce the spread of illness, reduces costs, increases productivity, reduces their carbon footprint and energy usage, offers an inexpensive method of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), reduces turnover and absenteeism, and improves employee morale, offers a continuity of operations strategy, improve their ability to handle business across multiple timezones, and hasten their cultural adaptability. Full-time telework can save companies approximately $20,000 per employee. [9]

For individuals, telecommuting, or more specifically, work from home arrangements, improves work-life balance, reduces their carbon footprint and fuel usage, frees up the equivalent of 15 to 25 workdays a year—time they would have otherwise spent commuting, and saves between $4,000 and $21,000 per year in travel and work-related costs (not including daycare).[10] When gas prices average $3.00 per gallon, the average full-time employee who commutes 5 days per week spends $138.80 per month on gasoline. If 53% of white-collar employees could telework 2 days a week, they could collectively save 9.7 billion gallons of gas and $38.2 billion a year.[11]

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Environmental Benefits

Telecommuting gained more ground in the United States in 1996 after "the Clean Air Act amendments were adopted with the expectation of reducing carbon dioxide and ground-level ozone levels by 25 percent."[12] The act required companies with over 100 employees to encourage car pools, public transportation, shortened workweeks, and telecommuting. In 2004, an appropriations bill was enacted by Congress to encourage telecommuting for certain Federal agencies. The bill threatened to withhold money from agencies that failed to provide telecommuting options to all eligible employees.

If the 40% of the U.S. population that holds telework-compatible jobs worked from home half of the time, - The nation would save 453 million barrels of oil (57% of Gulf oil imports) - The environment would be saved the equivalent of taking 15 million cars permanently off the road. - The energy potential from the gas savings would total more than twice what the U.S. currently produces from all renewable energy source combined. [13]

Employee Satisfaction

Telework flexibility is a desirable perquisite for employees. A 2008 Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index, a survey of 1,400 CFOs by recruitment firm Robert Half International, indicated that 13% consider telework the best recruiting incentive today for accounting professionals.[14] In earlier surveys, 33% considered telework the best recruiting incentive, and half considered it second best.[15]

Current Trends

U.S. Federal Government

Recent events have pushed telework to the forefront as a critical measurement for the U.S. federal government. Telework relates to continuity of operations (COOP) and national pandemic preparedness planning, reducing dependence on foreign oil and the burden of rising gas prices, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), and a focus on recruitment and retention.

During a keynote address at the September 12, 2007 Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting, Lurita Doan, at that time the Administrator for the General Services Administration, announced an aggressive commitment goal to increase agency telework participation. Her challenge will enable 50 percent of eligible agency employees to telework one or more days per week by 2010. Currently 10 percent of eligible GSA employees telework, compared to 4.2 percent for the overall Federal workforce. Her goal is to increase participation to 20 percent by the end of 2008, 40 percent by the end of 2009, and finally 50 percent by 2010.[16]

A 2007 study [17][18] of National Science Foundation employees indicated that approximately one-third participated in telework regularly, characterized staff satisfaction with the program, and noted savings in employee time and greenhouse-gas emissions as a result of telework.

Telework Centers

Telework centers are offices that are generally set up close to a majority of people who might otherwise drive or take public transit. They usually feature the full complement of office equipment and a high-speed Internet connection for maximum productivity. Some feature support staff such as receptionists. For example, a number of telework centers have been set up around Washington, D.C. in Maryland (6), Virginia (8), and D.C. and West Virginia (one each). [19]

Telework centers allow people to reduce their commute yet still work in a traditional office setting. Some Telework Centers are set up by individual companies while others are established by independent organizations for use by many organizations. Telework centers are attractive to people who do not have the space or inclination to work from home. They offer employers the ability to maintain a more formal structure for their workforce.

These work arrangements are likely to become more popular with current trends towards greater customization of services and virtual organizing. Distributed work offers great potential for firms to reduce costs, enhance competitive advantage and agility, access a greater variety of scarce talents, and improve employee flexibility, effectiveness and productivity.[20][21][22][23] It has gained in popularity in the West, particularly in Europe. While increasing in importance, distributed work has not yet gained widespread acceptance in Asia.[24]

Remote Office Centers

Remote Office Centers, are distributed centers for leasing offices to individuals from multiple companies. A Remote Office Center provide professional grade network access, phone system, security system, mail stop and optional services for additional costs. ROCs are generally located in areas near where people live throughout population centers, so that workers do not have to commute more than a couple of miles. The telecommuter works in a real office but accesses the company network across the internet using a VPN just as in traditional telecommuting.

This type of arrangement does not share fully in the benefits of home-based telecommuting, but can address the needs of employees who are unable or unwilling to work from home.

Related Terms / Concepts

Office Hoteling

Some companies, particularly those where employees spend a great deal of time on the road and at remote locations, offer a hotdesking or office hoteling arrangement where employees can reserve the use of a traditional office, at the company headquarters, a Remote Office Center, or other shared office facility.

Coworking

Coworking is a social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share a common working area as well as the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space. Coworking facilities can range from shared space in formal offices to social areas such as a coffee shop.

Distributed Work

Distributed work entails the conduct of organizational tasks in places that extend beyond the confines of traditional offices. It can refer to organizational arrangements that permit or require workers to perform work more effectively at any appropriate location, such as their homes and customers' sites - through the application of information and communication technology. An example is financial planners who meet clients during lunchtime with access to various financial planning tools and offerings on their mobile computers, or publishing executives who recommend and place orders for the latest book offerings to libraries and university professors, among others. If this type of distributed work replaces the workers commute, it would be considered telecommuting. If it did not, it would be considered telework.

Jellies

Some telecommuters and teleworkers form local groups that gather at coffee shops and other locations to socialize, collaborate, or just reduce the isolation of working on their own.[25]

Potential Drawbacks / Concerns

  • Employers largest concerns about telecommuting are: fear of loss of control; 75% of managers say they trust their employees, but a third say they'd like to be able to see them, just to be sure. [26]
  • Barriers to continued growth of telecommuting include distrust from employers and personal disconnectedness for employees.[27]
  • Telecommuting has come to be viewed by some as more a "complement rather than a substitute for work in the workplace".[28]
  • Security must be addressed for teleworkers and non-teleworkers as well. In 2006, a United States Department of Veterans Affairs employee's stolen laptop represented what was described as "potentially the largest loss of Social Security numbers to date."[29]. While he was not a telecommuter, this incident brought attention to the risks inherent in working off-site. Ninety percent of executives charged with security in large organizations feel that telework is not a security concern. They are more concerned with the occasional work that's taken out of the office by non-teleworkers because they lack the training, tools, and technologies that teleworker receive. [30]
  • Managers may view the teleworker as experiencing a drop in productivity during the first few months. This drop occurs as "the employee, his peers, and the manager adjust to the new work regimen".[31] The drop could also be accountable to inadequate office setup. Managers need to be patient and let the teleworker adapt. It can be claimed that as much as "70 minutes of each day in a regular office are wasted by interruptions, yakking around the photocopier, and other distractions".[32] Eventually, productivity of the teleworker will climb. Over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among telecommuters. CompTIA survey of 212 diverse employers (October 2008). [33]
  • Traditional line managers are accustomed to managing by observation and not necessarily by results. This causes a serious obstacle in organizations attempting to adopt telecommuting. Liability and workers' compensation can become serious issues as well. Companies considering telecommuting should be sure to check on local legal issues, union issues, and zoning laws. Telecommuting should incorporate training and development that includes evaluation, simulation programs, team meetings, written materials, and forums. Information sharing should be considered synchronous in a virtual office and building processes to handle conflicts should be developed. Operational and administrative support should be redesigned to support the virtual office environment. Facilities need to be coordinated properly in order to support the virtual office and technical support should be coordinated properly. The conclusion for managers working within telecommuting organizations is that new approaches to "evaluating, educating, organizing, and informing workers"[34] should be adopted.
  • Teleworking can negatively affect a person's career. A recent survey of 1,300 executives from 71 countries indicated that respondents believe that people who telework were less likely to get promoted. Companies rarely promote people into leadership roles who haven't been consistently seen and measured. [35]

Telecommuting and Work At Home Scams

Work-at-home and telecommuting scams are common. Some of these job offers are scams appealing to a "get rich quick" audience but in fact require an investment up front with no pay off at the end.[36] The problem is so pervasive that in 2006 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established Project False Hopes, a federal and state law enforcement sweep that targets bogus business opportunity and work at home scams. The crackdown involved more than 100 law enforcement actions by the FTC, the Department of Justice, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and law enforcement agencies in 11 states. In four of the new FTC cases alone, consumers lost more than $30 million. “Bogus business opportunities trample on Americans’ dreams of financial independence,” said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. "If a business opportunity promises no risk, little effort, and big profits, it almost certainly is a scam. These scams offer only a money pit, where no matter how much time and money is invested, consumers never achieve the riches and financial freedom promised.”[37]

The FBI warned of such scams on February of 2009, as well.[38]

Of the 3 million+ web entries that surface from a search on the terms "work at home," over 95% of the results are scams, links to scams, or other dead ends. Work at home scams earn over $500 million a year. Home business scams account for another $250 million/year. Even the sites that claim to be scam-free, often feature ads that link to scams.[39]

According to Christine Durst, there is a 48-to-1 scam ratio among work at home job leads on the internet. This statistic has been used in coverage by Good Morning America, CNN, Business Week, and The Wall Street Journal. [40]

See also

References

  1. ^ Nilles, Jack M., Managing Telework: Options for Managing the Virtual Workforce, John Wiley & Sons 1998, ISBN 0-471-29316-4
  2. ^ Leonhard, Woody, The Underground Guide to Telecommuting, Addison-Wesley 1995, ISBN 0-201-48343-2
  3. ^ JALA biography of Jack Nilles Last modified: January 5, 2006 Accessed: March 11, 2007
  4. ^ "Telework Adoption and Energy Use in Building and Transport Sectors in the United States and Japan, J. Infrastruct. Syst. Volume 11, Issue 1, pp. 21-30 (March 2005)". http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=JITSE4000011000001000021000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes/. 
  5. ^ "Lister, Kate, Undress For Success--The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home, John Wiley & Sons (2009), ISBN 978-0-470-38332-2". http://undress4success.com/research/people-telecommute/. 
  6. ^ "WorldatWork "Telework Trendlines" 2009". http://www.worldatwork.org. 
  7. ^ Lister, Kate, Undress For Success--The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home, John Wiley & Sons (2009), ISBN 978-0-470-38332-2
  8. ^ "Managing Remote Workers". http://www.computing.co.uk/crn/comment/2227210/managing-remote-workers. 
  9. ^ "Lister, Kate, Telework Savings Calculator--an interactive web-based model that allows companies and communities estimate the value of increased telecommuting (the model has been quoted in Green Recovery, by Andrew Winston: Harvard Business Press ISBN 978-1-4221-6654-3, Fortune Magazine: June 9 2008 (http://money.cnn.com/2008/06/02/magazines/fortune/annie_gas.fortune/index.htm), and many other publications [http://undress4success.com/brags/work-at-home-undress4success-press/press-coverage-undress-success-2008/)"]. http://undress4success.com/research/telework-savings-calculator/. 
  10. ^ "Lister, Kate, Telework Savings Calculator". http://undress4success.com/research/telework-savings-calculator/. 
  11. ^ ""How Much is Too Much?" Telework Exchange research study". http://www.teleworkexchange.com/gasaddiction/. 
  12. ^ Siano, M. (1998, March-April). "Merging home and office: telecommuting is a high-tech energy saver" [Electronic version]. E.
  13. ^ "Lister, Kate, Undress For Success--The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home, John Wiley & Sons 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-38332-2". http://undress4success.com/research/telework-savings-calculator/. 
  14. ^ Robert Half International (2008-02-06). ""Survey Finds Salary Is Top Draw for Job Candidates but Benefits Nearly As Popular"". http://www.roberthalffinance.com/portal/site/rhf-us/template.PAGE/menuitem.b55c61eb41144dbf9a64e9c302f3dfa0/?javax.portlet.tpst=7658df44c982f2e6fa64e9c302f3dfa0&javax.portlet.prp_7658df44c982f2e6fa64e9c302f3dfa0_releaseId=2108&javax.portlet.prp_7658df44c982f2e6fa64e9c302f3dfa0_request_type=RenderPressRelease&javax.portlet.begCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken&javax.portlet.endCacheTok=com.vignette.cachetoken. 
  15. ^ Tom Abate (2008-04-22). "SF Chronicle "Group touts telecommuting's green benefits"". http://www.sfgate.com/. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/22/BUEC1087U5.DTL. 
  16. ^ Lurita Doan (2007-09-12). "Administrator Doan Issues GSA Telework Challenge". U.S. General Services Administration. http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/contentView.do?pageTypeId=8199&channelId=-18821&P=&contentId=23524&contentType=GSA_BASIC. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  17. ^ [http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=111252&org=olpa&from=news "NSF Press Release 08-038 "Telework" Benefits Employers, Employees and the Environment"]. http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=111252&org=olpa&from=news. 
  18. ^ "Telework Under the Microscope -- A Report on the National Science Foundation's Telework Program". http://www.teleworkexchange.com/nsfstudy. 
  19. ^ Commuter Connections, Telework Centers, http://www.mwcog.org/commuter/Bdy-TDMTele.html
  20. ^ Venkatesh, A. and Vitalari, N. P., "An Emerging Distributed Work Arrangement: An Investigation of Computer-Based Supplemental Work at Home", Management Science, 1992, 38(12), pp. 1687-1706.
  21. ^ Korte, W. B., "Telework – Potentials, Inceptions, Operations and Likely Future Situations," in W. B. Korte, S. Robinson, and W. J. Steinle (Eds.), Telework: Present Situations and Future Development of A New Form of Work Organization, Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1988.
  22. ^ Sieber, P. "Virtuality as a Strategic Approach for Small and Medium Sized IT Companies to Stay Competitive in a Global Market," in J.I. DeGross, S. Jarvenpaa, and A. Srinivasan (Eds.), Proceedings of the Seventeenth International Conference on Information Systems, Cleveland, OH, 1996, pp. 468.
  23. ^ Taylor, W. C., "At VeriFone, It's a Dog's Life (And they Love it)," Fast Company, 1995, 1 (Premiere Issue), pp. 115-121. http://www.fastcompany.com/online/01/vfone.html
  24. ^ Sia, C. L., Teo, H. H., Tan, B. C. Y., Wei, K. K., "Effects of Environmental Uncertainty on Organizational Intention to Adopt Distributed Work Arrangements," IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 2004, 51(3), pp. 253-267
  25. ^ "Links to Jellies worldwide.". http://wiki.workatjelly.com/. 
  26. ^ "Lister, Kate, Undress For Success--The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home, (John Wiley & Sons 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-38332-2)quoting Management-Issues.com (July 30, 2007 survey". http://undress4success.com/research/pros-cons/. 
  27. ^ Matt Rosenberg (2007-09-26). "Slow But Steady "Telework Revolution" Eyed". Cascadia Prospectus. http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&program=DI%20Main%20Page%20-%20News&id=4235. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  28. ^ Pliskin, N. (1998, March-April). "Explaining the paradox of telecommuting", para. 5 [Electronic version]. Business Horizons
  29. ^ Lemos, Robert: Veterans Affairs warns of massive privacy breach Security Affairs Retrieved 03–11–06
  30. ^ Remote Control Federal CISOs Dish on Mobility, Telework, and Data Security (2007, Telework Exchange
  31. ^ Gantenbein, D. (1999, December). "All dressed up with no place to go" [Electronic version]. Home Office Computing, para. 21.
  32. ^ Gantenbein, 1999, December, para. 24
  33. ^ CompTIA survey of 212 diverse employers. October 2008
  34. ^ Davenport, T. (1998, Summer). "Two cheers for the virtual office" [Electronic version] para. 8. Sloan Management Review
  35. ^ Organizational Behavior,eight edition,McGraw-Hill
  36. ^ Work-at-home E-mail Scams Target the Vulnerable Newswise, Retrieved on September 28, 2008.
  37. ^ Federal Trade Commission. / "Federal, State Law Enforcers Complete Bogus Business Opportunity Sweep". http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/12/falsehopes.shtm. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/12/falsehopes.shtm /. Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  38. ^ "FBI Invetigative Programs Cyber Investigations—Work-At-Home Scams". http://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest/escams.htm. 
  39. ^ "Lister, Kate, Undress For Success--The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home, John Wiley & Sons 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-38332-2; also quoted by AARP Bulletin, March 23, 2009". http://undress4success.com/scams/. 
  40. ^ Business Week. / "Scanning for Scammers". http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/mar2008/sb2008033_791286.htm?chan=search. http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/mar2008/sb2008033_791286.htm?chan=search /. 
  • Verstraete, A. (1997, September 4). Levels of systems: personal, workgroup, and enterprise. Retrieved January 27, 2001, from http://www.smeal.psu.edu/misweb/infosys/ibistype.html#SHARED.
  • Whitten, J., Bentley, L., Dittman, K. (2001). Systems analysis and design methods. (5th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

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