Telecommuting Grows in Business and Government

By Samuel Greengard

Despite the high profile rumblings of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who banned telecommuting at the tech company in March, telework seems to be alive and well.

The third annual Telework Week Report—from the Mobile Work Exchange, Cisco Systems and Citrix Systems—notes a 91 percent increase in telework pledges over the last year. Essentially, a pledge is a promise to use telework in some capacity. The pledge period took place in early March.

The biggest increase in pledges occurred in the Washington, D.C., area, which posted a 95 percent increase over 2012. This translates to a savings of 392,420 trips in this region alone. Driving adoption, the organization reports, is mainstream acceptance of telework among federal agencies.

“Telework Week 2013 pledges noted positive Telework Week experiences, including improved productivity, reduced commuting costs, improved work-life balance and increased job satisfaction,” noted Cindy Auten, general manager for Mobile Work Exchange. “Additionally, 84 percent are more likely to telework in the future.”

Overall, 82 percent of the pledges indicated that they work for the federal government. About one-quarter telework on an ad hoc basis, 8 percent telework at least once a month and 4 percent were first-time teleworkers. The decrease in driving accounted for four hours in time savings and about $90 per week in lower transportation expenses. The average worker avoided a 45-mile commute.

About 90 percent of respondents said that they plan to use a laptop to handle their daily work. In addition, 28 percent use a smartphone, and about 6 percent rely on a tablet device. Nearly 60 percent also indicated that they connect to their office via a virtual private network (VPN), and approximately 11 percent use virtual desktops. Video conferencing and collaboration tools also proved valuable.

Participants reported that digital technology is especially valuable during inclement weather. According to the survey, four in five pledges are prepared to work effectively during a snowstorm or other disruptive event.

Nearly three out of four employees said they were more productive overall, and about two-thirds indicated that they will give preference to positions that offer telework. Sixteen percent noted that they will not consider a job without telework options.

These gains, as well as cost savings for employers, are encouraging management to significantly expand telework programs, the Mobile Work Exchange reports. In 2011, about 60 percent of managers were receptive to the concept. Today, that figure has shot past 66 percent.

Managers are reporting higher overall ROI, improved productivity, a reduction in real estate costs, and an ability to reduce pollution and CO2 output.

Yahoo! aside, telework is here to stay. Says Auten: “With telework becoming the norm across public and private sectors, organizations are going to put a renewed focus on IT—particularly mobile IT. The use of laptops, VPNs, smartphones, collaboration tools, video conferencing and tablets is increasing.

“Organizations should establish technology guidelines and policies, as well as provide tech training and support to enable and support a mobile workforce.”