2 Comments

Summary:

Telework may have obvious benefits, but the number of remote workers isn’t exactly soaring. In fact, according to some recent studies, the growth in telecommuting is actually slowing. Many explanations are possible, but maybe the simplest is best: The terrible economy has everyone scared.

5857354935_6227a11f2f

For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environment and even the bottom line, telecommuting has experienced explosive growth. There may be plenty of chatter about the practice and even government cheerleading for companies to get on the bandwagon, but outside certain specific professional niches and geographical regions, working via the Internet is hardly the day-to-day norm for most.

Nor is the uptake of telecommuting speeding up, according to recent research. In fact, the rate of growth is slowing down, claims a recent post on the blog Workshifting:

The latest research from the Telework Research Network indicates that while telework is growing, it’s not increasing at the pace we might have expected. According to 2009 U.S. Census data, 61 percent more employees considered home their primary place of work versus 2005. But that number translates to only 2.3 percent of the total workforce.

When compared with a recent report from WorldatWork, which indicates that the overall number of teleworkers declined between 2008 and 2010, a trend emerges. The frequency of telework has increased, meaning fewer workshifters are doing more flexible work.

What’s behind this decrease in the number of teleworkers? Workshifting suggests a number of possibilities, including:

  • Not everyone wants to telecommute
  • Companies struggling to quantify the costs and benefits
  • Inadequate tools and resources available to support the lifestyle
  • Businesses still unsure how to manage people they can’t see

All of these are certainly hurdles to increased telecommuting, but a separate recent study suggests the slowdown in the increase in remote work may have a simpler explanation: the terrible economy.

That seems to be true in the UK at least, where communications company O2 has recently published a report looking at the future of work and flexible working. The poll of 2,000 workers found that two out of five feel pressured to be in the office because of the gloomy economy. O2 has dubbed the fear of prejudice against remote work “presenteeism” and says the condition is on the rise among Brits.

“With so many organizations facing economic uncertainty, our research suggests large numbers of businesses are missing out on the productivity gains, improved employee and customer engagement and efficient processes that such flexible working practices can deliver,” said David Plumb, O2′s general manager for enterprise.

At Net:Work in December, we’ll discuss the future of the mobile workforce and how managers can better manage remote workers. Get your tickets today.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Images_of_Money

  1. #virtual events Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivi… http://t.co/1LQZ9lv8

    Share
  2. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/3bU2baxb #smallbiztech

    Share
  3. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/fjMDSLvO #businessapps

    Share
  4. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/knUykt7t

    Share
  5. #virtual events Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivi… http://t.co/eq0nQvPD

    Share
  6. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/fi1ChIGh

    Share
  7. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/V7BNc4Mn

    Share
  8. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/hrt3W3pU

    Share
  9. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/Pc0HcWDM

    Share
  10. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/4HUGueDS

    Share
  11. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/XgAvV72x

    Share
  12. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to product… http://t.co/UWUsqcrf #jobs #philippines

    Share
  13. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/xoVnBJXj

    Share
  14. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity, the environm… http://t.co/h8n9ZEKb

    Share
  15. #collabortion Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: For exactly all of its obvious benefits to productivity… http://t.co/hrovLec8

    Share
  16. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/q87oFFLH

    Share
  17. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/oDxj6OHh

    Share
  18. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/Bsm3gS2p

    Share
  19. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/Xzbdj4Yd #webdevfeeds

    Share
  20. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? – Telework may have obvious benefits, but the number of remote workers isn… http://t.co/vDYBc7X6

    Share
  21. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? – Telework may have obvious benefits, but the number of remote workers isn… http://t.co/7Zzms7UU

    Share
  22. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/3LNGtScO

    Share
  23. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze?: Telework may have obvious benefits, but the number of remo… http://t.co/Sp0ZdtF4 #JobCircle

    Share
  24. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/TftfNTeH

    Share
  25. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/WVdFk1am

    Share
  26. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/SUI2Q044

    Share
  27. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/xL57hL7d

    Share
  28. @andyabramson #2-4 just mean companies not utilizing today’s tools to accurately replicate nuances of REAL interaction. http://t.co/YDqWkHus

    Share
  29. Telework is feeling the economic squeeze … http://t.co/a3J0o5fb #totalrewards #telework

    Share
  30. RT @WebWorkerDaily: Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/oDxj6OHh

    Share
  31. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/FtV268ew

    Share
  32. RT @MBOpartners: Are companies that are reluctant to embrace telework actually hurting themselves? http://t.co/hSeFvVAq #futureofwork

    Share
  33. FutureWorkforce Monday, November 21, 2011

    Hi Jessica, Kate Lister of the Telework Research Network here. I’m the author of one of the studies you mentioned. I thought I might elaborate on the telework trend data you quoted from Workshifting.com.

    Our research (based on U.S. Census/American Community Survey data) shows that regular telecommuting (half-time or more) has increased steadily for the past 5 years. Though the growth slowed during the recession, it still far outpaced that of the overall workforce (which grew only about 4% in the same period and actually lost ground in 2009) and the self-employed workforce (which grew less than 2% from 2005 to 2009 and declined in both 2008 and 2009).

    WorldatWork’s data is based on a survey of about occasional telecommuting (as infrequent as one day a month). Their 2011 report showed that in the wake of a 74 percent increase in occasional telecommuters between 2005 and 2008, there was a small decline in 2008 and 2010. A little less than half of that decline was the result of decline in the overall labor market.

    The WorldatWork report also says: “At first glance, the data might lead most to conclude that teleworking stalled in 2010. However, the decline likely is due a combination of factors: fewer Americans in the workforce overall due to high unemployment, higher anxiety surrounding job security, and lack of awareness of telework options.”

    On balance, the small loss of occasional telecommuters reported by WorldatWork is about equal to the gain in those who do so regularly. Perhaps companies realized they could save money by converting occasional teleworkers to regular ones.

    Share
  34. Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? #gigaom http://t.co/O1j3A3xg

    Share
  35. Telecommuters are lesser these days? Something to do with the economy? http://t.co/6MboGTmD

    Share
  36. Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/LXypzWBR #remote #virtual #communication #teamwork #freelance

    Share
  37. Is #telework feeling the economic squeeze? — gigaom http://t.co/qUijBpv7

    Share
  38. Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/HprG2tGO

    Share
  39. How is the economic downturn hitting telework numbers? http://t.co/6Ag1qVd1

    Share
  40. Why is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? @GigaOM answers – http://t.co/q87o0yuf #KansasCity #Coworking

    Share
  41. Is telework feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/Keb44kQi #telework #flexiblework

    Share
  42. Is #telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/gyOZIydK #telework

    Share
  43. @techwritertoday
    Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze?
    http://t.co/7KPSoIMG

    Share
  44. Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/A5Phk5wM #webworking

    Share
  45. Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? – http://t.co/yDpzql6n

    Share
  46. Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? – http://t.co/7oDdAoEC

    Share
  47. How is the #economic #downturn hitting #telework numbers?: http://t.co/Witb9HCk #homeautomation

    Share
  48. Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/95fYOJdN #Cmgr #Collaboration #Communities

    Share
  49. RT @GinoRossi: Is telecommuting feeling the economic squeeze? http://t.co/95fYOJdN #Cmgr #Collaboration #Communities

    Share
  50. The growth of #telecommuting is slowing http://t.co/8cLzp3Ja

    Share
  51. There are a number of positive benefits for employees and employers in building a home-based workforce that are highly attractive today. The work-from-home model gives companies the ability to source talent from a much broader group of applicants, and find people with specialized qualifications such as professional licenses and certifications, technical knowledge, management experience, selling skills, etc. At Convergys, we employ home-based workers across the country and find this model results in proven disaster recovery capability and greatly improved employee satisfaction, while enabling us to more easily adjust to fluctuating workloads and business demands. Among the benefits to employees are better work/life balance and lower commuting costs. To help quantify this benefit, we’ve even created a Lifestyle Benefits Calculator that we offer would-be applicants to our home agent program.
    -Rick Owens, Sr. Director Home Agent, Convergys

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post