Telecommuting and the Untethered Employee

As part of a special report on Work/Life Balance, BusinessWeek ran a  “Telecommuting: Once a Perk, Now a Necessity,” an interesting story on how remote workers and telecommuting are now being seen as necessary developments for many organizations, rather than perks afforded to a privileged few amongst their workforce.

Driven by the need to reduce capital expenditure, many employers are encouraging workers to move to home offices. Here are a few interesting takeaways.

  • A healthcare provider is supplying free broadband and gratis office furniture, complete with a couple of delivery guys to set it all up.
  • the amount of money saved by working from home: $15 a day for lunch, $70 a week in gas and wear and tear on a vehicle.
  • To entice employees into telecommuting, Capital One is offering laptops and Blackberries, and the $1,000 managers can supply to workers to improve home offices.
  • At Capital One, office space will now be allotted by function, not title. Square footage will be based on office presence, not rank, with the new workplace will be less about working alone and more about working together.

There’s a bunch of phraseology strung throughout this article that I think is really pertinent to the web worker. Really what we’re talking about is the “post-geographic, untethered worker” — the web is simply an enabler for many disciplines and industries. I’m going to stop using “telecommuter” and go with “untethered” worker from now on!

There are some interesting inferences to be made from Gelb’s story and that of her employer – could coworking be seen as a potential “halfway house” for employees? Could smart employers provide coworking credits to their newly untethered workers, or perhaps stimulate the development of sponsored coworking spaces that benefit workers who might live in proximity?

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