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Summary:

Globally, nearly one-in-five wired workers telecommute on a frequent basis, but the number working from outside the office varies enormously between regions, with those in the developing world reporting far more mobility than Europeans and North Americans.

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Telecommuting may seem like a privilege of the professional and fully wired, so you may have assumed the practice was most prevalent in the developed world. But when Ipsos recently surveyed a total of 11,383 employees with Internet connections from 24 countries for a survey released Monday, they found quite the opposite.

While on average nearly one-in-five (17 percent) wired workers claims to telecommute on a frequent basis, the percentage of workers taking advantage of their broadband connection to get out of the office was far higher in emerging markets.

“Those working in the Middle East and Africa (27 percent), Latin America (25 percent) and Asia-Pacific (24 percent) are considerably more likely than those in North America (9 percent) and Europe (9 percent) to telecommute ‘on a frequent basis,’” the survey found. The rates for individual countries hold more surprises with these nations reporting the most and fewest telecommuters:

  • India: 56 percent
  • Indonesia: 34 percent
  • Mexico: 30 percent
  • Argentina: 29 percent
  • South Africa: 28 percent
  • Turkey: 27 percent
  • Canada: 8 percent
  • France: 7 percent
  • Italy: 7 percent
  • Sweden: 6 percent
  • Germany: 5 percent
  • Hungary: 3 percent

So who exactly qualifies as a frequent telecommuter for the purposes of the Ipsos survey? A telecommuter, the release explains is “an employee uses a stationary or portable computer to do their office work from a location outside of their office,” so a fairly standard definition that encompasses how the word is commonly used here in the States.

The survey also found differences between populations in how much appetite for telecommuting exists among those who have not yet been offered the option. In Japan, a measly 12 percent would telecommute if given the opportunity. Sixteen percent in Sweden and 19 percent in Great Britain felt the same, while a whopping 54 percent of Argentines would happily jump on the telecommuting bandwagon if allowed.

One thing healthy majorities in nearly every country agreed on though was that telecommuting is a productivity booster. Sixty-five percent globally told pollsters “telecommuters are more productive because the flexibility allows them to work when they have the most focus and/or because having maximum control over the work environment and schedule leads to job satisfaction and happiness.” Surprisingly, in telecommuting-bereft Hungary, 74 percent agreed with this proposition, as did a similar proportion of those polled in Argentina, Poland, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

What do you think accounts for the national differences revealed by the survey?

Image courtesy of Flickr user diongillard.

  1. Most of the Indians IT guys do telecommuting, to avoid the traffic in the cities. It’s real bad.

    And in the US, employees are worried about job security, asking for a telecommuting request might be the last item they can think of.

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  2. Sergio Sanchez Tuesday, January 24, 2012

    One possible reason, is that in those countries mobility is an issue (lots of traffic, bad public transport, road availability, more distance to cover, and other things).

    Still, I live in Mexico and I think that the size of the survey may affect the results also. Telecommuting in this country is nowhere near the 30 percent in general. Only in very specific industries (IT) it might be somewhat relevant, but in the rest is really really low.

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  3. Despite the lip service paid to the benefits of telecommuting, most established companies actively discourage it by passive aggressive means. I have experience with this at my last five companies – in every case I could have telecommuted easily and in every case it was discouraged in subtle ways. I am in a management role and that was frequently used as an excuse even though there is no reason people can’t be managed that way. In many cases the same organization had people being managed remotely using the same tools.

    It seems like smaller and more agile companies are beginning to get the benefits but established companies just cannot pass that hurdle.

    And as another commenter alluded, I have not been able to challenge the status quo for fear of losing my position.

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  4. Really amazing. I was surprised turkey ranking.

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  5. culture and what they view as free time away from the home , socializing at places of work / other types of socializing in general .

    ask questions like , A) do you socialize more in a work related environment , and why so ? ; B) how do you view socializing events and contact(s) on personal and professional basic’s ? ; C) does your time at the work place provide separation from home life ? why ? how ? do you see this as an important aspect in you in life ? why ? how? ; ect. …

    this is what i see as a major factor in the issue(s)

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