The State of Telecommuting

When we looked at last year’s Telework Report from CDW, the federal government stood out as a leader in encouraging telecommuting. This year’s report, which should be available on the CDW site shortly, paints a different picture. Thanks to strong growth in support from corporate IT departments, as well as price pressure at the gas pump, private sector telework has surged.

The simplest bottom-line numbers: 17% of Federal employees telework on a regular basis, as do 14% of private-sector employees. There’s been a marked change in the reasons employees offer for being interested in telework as well. Compared to last year, the number of people who are motivated by lowered expenses – primarily commuting expenses – has jumped from 31% to 67%. (This data correlates well with an IBM study from earlier this year that found $4.50 per gallon gas would be the breaking point for many commuters).

There are other points of interest in the CDW report as well. I was struck by the divergence in how often people telework. At the Federal level, only 6% of teleworkers do so for five days per week; that number is 30% in the private sector. Private workers also lead at 3 and 4 days per week, while 30% of Federal teleworkers do so less than one day per week. Overall, it seems clear that telecommuting is not the all-or-nothing option that it’s sometimes portrayed as; many web workers are only enabled by the web part-time, and in a traditional office setting the rest of the time.

68% of private sector employees, and 57% of federal ones, say the would telework if they had the option. The overwhelming reason for doing so: “more flexibility” (though “high gas prices” was not far behind). As for those who would skip it, the leading concern was isolation from fellow employees, followed by not wanting to work from home and reduced productivity.

The bottom line is simple: telework is here to stay, and given the current economic picture, it continues to make gains as a mainstream option. Those of us who work on the web full-time, though, are still the exception rather than the rule, even in the teleworking ranks.

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