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Telecommuting or telework are terms often used interchangeably to refer to a work arrangement in which employees enjoy flexibility in work location and hours. A person who telecommutes is known as a "telecommuter" and a person who teleworks is known as a "teleworker."

Telecommute generally refers to the elimination of the daily commute to a central place of work. Many telecommuters work from home, while others, occasionally also referred to as "nomad workers" or "web commuters" utilize mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or other locations. According to a Reuters news article, Ipsos/Reuters poll results, released in January 2012, revealed that approximately "one in five workers around the globe, particularly employees in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, telecommute frequently and nearly 10 percent work from home every day ...".[1]

The terms "telecommuting" and "telework" were coined by Jack Nilles in 1973.[2]

Definition

Telework generally refers to any form of substitution of information technologies (such as telecommunications and computers) for work-related travel; moving the work to the workers instead of moving the workers to work.[3] Although the concepts of "telecommuting" and "telework" are closely related, there is still a difference between the two—all types of work conducted outside a centrally located work space (including work done in the home) is considered as telework, while telecommuting refers more specifically to work that is undertaken inside the home, whether it is facilitated through a broadband connection and computer, by phone lines, or with the use of pen and paper.[4]

In particular, as a wider concept than telecommuting, telework has four dimensions of its definition framework: work location, which indicates anywhere else except the centralized organizational work places; the usage of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies), which indicates the technical support for the telework; the time distribution, which means the proportion of the replacement of the working time to former amount of time spent in the traditional office; and the diverse type of contractual relationship between employer and employee, such as the self-employed or the regular type. [5]

A frequently repeated motto is that "work is something you do, not something you travel to."[6] Some variations include: "Work is something we DO, not a place that we GO"[7] and "Work is what we do, not where we are."[8]

Telecommuting and telework statistics

Estimates suggest that over fifty million U.S. workers (about 40% of the working population) could work from home at least part of the time,[9] yet in 2008, only 2.5 million employees (not including the self-employed) considered their home their primary place of business.[10]

Very few companies employ large numbers of home-based full-time staff. The call center industry is one notable exception to this; several U.S.-based call centers employ thousands of home-based workers. For most employees, the option to work from home is granted as an employee benefit; most do so only part of the time.[11]

In 2009 the Office of Personnel Management reported that approximately 102,000 Federal employees telework.[12]

In January 2012, Reuters, drawing from a Ipsos/Reuters poll, predicted that telecommuting "is a trend that has grown and one which looks like it will continue with 34 percent of connected workers saying they would be very likely to telecommute on a full-time basis if they could."[1]

On December 9, 2010, the U.S. Federal Government passed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010[13] (Public Law 111-292) in order to improve Continuity of Operations and ensure essential Federal functions continue during emergency situations; to promote management effectiveness when telework is used to target reductions in costs and environmental impacts and transit costs; and to enhance the work-life balance of workers. For example, telework allows employees to better manage their work and family obligations, retaining a more resilient Federal workforce able to better meet agency goals.[14]

Technology

The roots of telecommuting lay in early 1970s technology, linking satellite offices to downtown mainframes by dumb terminals using telephone lines as a network bridge. The massive ongoing decrease in cost and increase in performance and usability of personal computers forged the way to decentralize even further, moving the office to the home. By the early 1980s, these branch offices and home workers were able to connect to the company mainframe using personal computers and terminal emulation.

Long distance telework is facilitated by tools such as groupware, virtual private networks, conference calling, videoconferencing, and Voice over IP (VOIP). It can be efficient and useful for companies as it allows staff and workers to communicate over a large distance, saving significant amounts of travel time and cost. As broadband Internet connections become more commonplace, more and more workers have enough bandwidth at home to use these tools to link their home office to their corporate intranet and internal phone networks.

The adoption of local area networks promoted sharing of resources, and client–server computing allowed for even greater decentralization. Today, telecommuters can carry laptop PCs around which they can use both at the office and at home (and almost anywhere else). The rise of cloud computing technology and Wi-Fi availability has enabled access to remote servers via a combination of portable hardware and software.[15]

Furthermore, with the improved technology and its increasing popularity, Smartphone currently are widely applied in teleworking. It largely increases the mobility of the work and the degree of the coordination with the organization. The technology of mobile phones and Personal Data Assistant (PDA) allow the instant communication of text messages, camera photos and video chips to happen at anywhere and at anytime. [16]

Potential benefits

Telecommuting offers benefits to communities, employers, and employees.

For communities, telecommuting can offer fuller employment (by increasing the employ-ability of proximal or circumstantially marginalized groups, such as Work at home parents and caregivers, the disabled, retirees, and people living in remote areas), reduces traffic congestion and traffic accidents, relieves the strain on transportation infrastructures, reduces greenhouse gases, saves fuel, reduces energy use, improves disaster preparedness, and reduces terrorism targets.

For companies, telecommuting expands the talent pool, reduces the spread of illness, reduces costs, increases productivity, reduces their carbon footprint and energy usage, offers an inexpensive method of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), reduces turnover and absenteeism, improves employee morale, offers a continuity of operations strategy, improves their ability to handle business across multiple timezones, and hastens their cultural adaptability. Full-time telework can save companies approximately $20,000 per employee.[17]

For individuals, telecommuting, or more specifically, work from home arrangements, improves work-life balance, reduces their carbon footprint and fuel usage, frees up the equivalent of 15 to 25 workdays a year—time they would have otherwise spent commuting, and saves between $4,000 and $21,000 per year in travel and work-related costs (not including daycare).[18] When gas prices average $3.00 per gallon, the average full-time employee who commutes 5 days per week spends $138.80 per month on gasoline. If 53% of white-collar employees could telework 2 days a week, they could collectively save Template:Convert/e9USgalTemplate:Convert/test/A of gas and $38.2 billion a year.[19]

Half-time telecommuting by those with compatible jobs (40%) and a desire to do so (79%) would save companies, communities, and employees over $650 billion a year—the result of increased productivity, reduced office expense, lower absenteeism and turnover, reduced travel, less road repairs, less gas consumption, and other savings.[20]

In general, telecommuting benefits the society in multiple ways, such as the economic, the environmental, and the personal aspects. The wide application of ICTs leads to the increasing benefit for employees, especially ones with physical disabilities and leads to a more energy-saving society with the keeping growth of economy. [21]

Environmental benefits

Telecommuting gained more ground in the United States in 1996 after "the Clean Air Act amendments were adopted with the expectation of reducing carbon dioxide and ground-level ozone levels by 25 percent."[22] The act required companies with over 100 employees to encourage car pools, public transportation, shortened workweeks, and telecommuting. In 2004, an appropriations bill was enacted by Congress to encourage telecommuting for certain Federal agencies. The bill threatened to withhold money from agencies that failed to provide telecommuting options to all eligible employees.

If the 40% of the U.S. population that holds telework-compatible jobs and wants to work from home did so half of the time,

  • The nation would save Template:Convert/oilbblTemplate:Convert/test/A of oil (37% of Gulf oil imports)
  • The environment would be saved the equivalent of taking 9 million cars permanently off the road.
  • The energy potential from the gas savings would total more than twice what the U.S. currently produces from all renewable energy sources combined.[23]

Employee satisfaction

Telework flexibility is a desirable perquisite for employees. A 2008 Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index, a survey of 1,400 CFOs by recruitment firm Robert Half International, indicated that 13% consider telework the best recruiting incentive today for accounting professionals.[24] In earlier surveys, 33% considered telework the best recruiting incentive, and half considered it second best.[25]

Meta-analytic Research Evidence About the Benefits and Drawbacks of Telecommuting

A meta-analysis of 46 studies of telecommuting involving 12,833 employees by Ravi Gajendran and David A. Harrison in Journal of Applied Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), finds that telecommuting has largely positive consequences for employees and employers.[26]. [27]. In their meta-analytic study, Gajendran and Harrison find that telecommuting had modest but mainly beneficial effects on employees' job satisfaction, autonomy, stress, manager rated job performance, and (lower) work-family conflict. Although a number or scholars and managers have expressed fears that employees' career might suffer and workplace relationships damaged because of telecommuting, the meta-analysis finds that there no generally detrimental effects on the quality of workplace relationships and career outcomes. Only high-intensity telecommuting (where employees work from home for more than 2.5 days a week) harmed employee relationships with coworkers but enhanced telecommuting's beneficial effects on lowering work-family conflict.

Potential drawbacks and concerns

  • Employers largest concerns about telecommuting are: fear of loss of control; 75% of managers say they trust their employees, but a third say they'd like to be able to see them, just to be sure.[28]
  • Barriers to continued growth of telecommuting include distrust from employers and personal disconnectedness for employees.[29] In the telework circumstance, employees and supervisors have to work harder to maintain relationships with co-workers.[30]
  • Telecommuting has come to be viewed by some as more a "complement rather than a substitute for work in the workplace".[31]
  • Security must be addressed for teleworkers and non-teleworkers as well. In 2006, a United States Department of Veterans Affairs employee's stolen laptop represented what was described as "potentially the largest loss of Social Security numbers to date.".[32] While he was not a telecommuter, this incident brought attention to the risks inherent in working off-site. Ninety percent of executives charged with security in large organizations feel that telework is not a security concern. They are more concerned with the occasional work that's taken out of the office by non-teleworkers because they lack the training, tools, and technologies that teleworkers receive.[33]
  • Managers may view the teleworker as experiencing a drop in productivity during the first few months. This drop occurs as "the employee, his peers, and the manager adjust to the new work regimen".[34] The drop could also be accountable to inadequate office setup. Managers need to be patient and let the teleworker adapt. It can be claimed that as much as "70 minutes of each day in a regular office are wasted by interruptions, yakking around the photocopier, and other distractions".[35] Eventually, productivity of the teleworker will climb. Over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among telecommuters. CompTIA survey of 212 diverse employers (October 2008).[36]
  • Traditional line managers are accustomed to managing by observation and not necessarily by results. This causes a serious obstacle in organizations attempting to adopt telecommuting. Liability and workers' compensation can become serious issues as well. Companies considering telecommuting should be sure to check on local legal issues, union issues, and zoning laws. Telecommuting should incorporate training and development that includes evaluation, simulation programs, team meetings, written materials, and forums. Information sharing should be considered synchronous in a virtual office and building processes to handle conflicts should be developed. Operational and administrative support should be redesigned to support the virtual office environment. Facilities need to be coordinated properly in order to support the virtual office and technical support should be coordinated properly. The conclusion for managers working within telecommuting organizations is that new approaches to "evaluating, educating, organizing, and informing workers"[37] should be adopted.
  • Teleworking can negatively affect a person's career. A recent survey of 1,300 executives from 71 countries indicated that respondents believe that people who telework were less likely to get promoted. Companies rarely promote people into leadership roles who haven't been consistently seen and measured.[38]

Telecommuting and work-at-home scams

Main article: Work at home scheme

Work-at-home and telecommuting scams are very common and are wide spread. Some of these job offers are scams appealing to a "get rich quick" audience but in fact require an investment up front with no pay off at the end.[39] The problem is so pervasive that in 2006 the American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established Project False Hopes, a federal and state law enforcement sweep that targets bogus business opportunity and work at home scams. The crackdown involved more than 100 law enforcement actions by the FTC, the Department of Justice, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and law enforcement agencies in 11 states. In four of the new FTC cases alone, consumers lost more than $30 million. "Bogus business opportunities trample on Americans’ dreams of financial independence," said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. "If a business opportunity promises no risk, little effort, and big profits, it almost certainly is a scam. These scams offer only a money pit, where no matter how much time and money is invested, consumers never achieve the riches and financial freedom promised."[40] The FBI warned of such scams on February 2009, as well.[41]

Of the more than 3 million web entries that surface from a search on the terms "work at home," more than 95% of the results are scams, links to scams, or other dead ends. Work at home scams earn more than $500 million per year. Home business scams account for another $250 million per year. Even the sites that claim to be scam-free often feature ads that link to scams.[42]

According to Christine Durst, there is a 48-to-1 scam ratio among work at home job leads on the internet. This statistic has been used in coverage by Good Morning America, CNN, Business Week, and The Wall Street Journal.[43]

One case is that in 2009, in order to protect its own company’s logo and identity, Google sued Pacific WebWorks and other unnamed defendants for the reason of promoting fake work-at-home money- making positions. [44]

Current trends

U.S. Federal government

If all Federal employees who are eligible to telework full time were to do so, the Federal Government could realize $13.9 billion savings in commuting costs annually and eliminate 21.5 billion pounds of pollutants from the environment each year.[45]

Recent events have pushed telework to the forefront as a critical measurement for the U.S. federal government. Telework relates to continuity of operations (COOP) and national pandemic preparedness planning, reducing dependence on foreign oil and the burden of rising gas prices, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), and a focus on recruitment and retention.

During a keynote address at the September 12, 2007 Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting, Lurita Doan, at that time the Administrator for the General Services Administration, announced an aggressive commitment goal to increase agency telework participation. Her challenge will enable 50 percent of eligible agency employees to telework one or more days per week by 2010. Currently 10 percent of eligible GSA employees telework, compared to 4.2 percent for the overall Federal workforce. Her goal is to increase participation to 20 percent by the end of 2008, 40 percent by the end of 2009, and finally 50 percent by 2010.[46]

A 2007 study[47][48] of National Science Foundation employees indicated that approximately one-third participated in telework regularly, characterized staff satisfaction with the program, and noted savings in employee time and greenhouse-gas emissions as a result of telework.

Rep. Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced the Telework Improvements Act of 2009 in March 2009. Co-sponsors of the bill included Reps. Connolly (D-VA), Wolf (R-VA), and Capito (R-WV). The bill requires each executive agency to establish a policy under which employees may be authorized to telework to the maximum extent possible without diminishing employee performance or agency operations. At the same time in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Akaka (D-HI) introduced the companion bill, along with Sens. Landrieu (D-LA) and Voinovich (R-OH).[49]

On May 24, 2010 the Senate passed the Telework Enhancement Act (S. 707) sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). The bill grants Federal employees eligibility to telework and requires Federal agencies to establish telework policies and identify telework managers.[50]

On July 14, 2010 the House passed the Telework Improvements Act of 2010 (H.R. 1722) with a vote of 290-131.[51]

The U.S. Senate passed the final version of the legislation by unanimous consent on September 29, 2010 and the House passed it with a bipartisan vote of 254-152 on November 18, 2010.[52]

On December 9, 2010 President Obama signed H.R. 1722, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, into law.[53]

Telework centers

Telework centers are offices that are generally set up close to a majority of people who might otherwise drive or take public transit. They usually feature the full complement of office equipment and a high-speed Internet connection for maximum productivity. Some feature support staff such as receptionists. For example, a number of telework centers have been set up around the Washington Metropolitan Area: 7 in Maryland, 8 in Virginia, 3 in Washington, D.C. and 1 in West Virginia.[54]

Telework centers allow people to reduce their commute yet still work in a traditional office setting. Some Telework Centers are set up by individual companies while others are established by independent organizations for use by many organizations. Telework centers are attractive to people who do not have the space or inclination to work from home. They offer employers the ability to maintain a more formal structure for their workforce.

These work arrangements are likely to become more popular with current trends towards greater customization of services and virtual organizing. Distributed work offers great potential for firms to reduce costs, enhance competitive advantage and agility, access a greater variety of scarce talents, and improve employee flexibility, effectiveness and productivity.[55][56][57][58] It has gained in popularity in the West, particularly in Europe. While increasing in importance, distributed work has not yet gained widespread acceptance in Asia.[59]

Remote office centers

Remote Office Centers, are distributed centers for leasing offices to individuals from multiple companies. A Remote Office Center provide professional grade network access, phone system, security system, mail stop and optional services for additional costs. ROCs are generally located in areas near where people live throughout population centers, so that workers do not have to commute more than a couple of miles. The telecommuter works in a real office but accesses the company network across the internet using a VPN just as in traditional telecommuting.

This type of arrangement does not share fully in the benefits of home-based telecommuting, but can address the needs of employees who are unable or unwilling to work from home.

In September 2010, Plantronics surveyed over 1,800 team knowledge workers and published "How We Work: Communication Trends for Business Professionals"[60] This report found that 90% of U.S. respondents work remotely at least some of the time.[61]

The management of telework

In practice, except technology-related problems, a well-functioning telework organization also needs an effective management system as traditional organizations. The management team would face various issues, such as how to still have the control of employees who do not stay in the office, how to make sure the productivity, how to build a strong virtual team, how to build a personal network between employees, etc. There are some tips:

  • Making a team schedule and separate it into millstones: If your project is predicable setting a working schedule can help remote teleworkers feel that they are at work, which can help supervisors trace the work performance of employees and further lead to a better productivity.[62]
  • Social networking that's encouraged. Employee surveys show that being able to work far from colleagues without losing touch has boosted employee satisfaction and makes top talent more inclined to stick around.[63]
  • Address problems right away. Respond to problems immediately even they are sent by email or text messaging. This behavior will not let teleworkers feel they are isolated. .[64]
  • Design KPIs for your remote workers. Using KPIs (key performance indicators) to measure the effectiveness of your in-office staff and also apply this measurement to your at-home team members.[64]
  • Opening a workday by holding a five-minute team video-conference is a very good way to start the day, by which supervisors could complete the regular check-in routine and at the same time employees could catch on the team work progress and feel connected to the whole organization. [64]

A successful telework or telecommuting program requires a management style that is results oriented as opposed to task oriented. This is referred to as management by objectives as opposed to management by observation.

Related terms and concepts

Office hoteling

Some companies, particularly those where employees spend a great deal of time on the road and at remote locations, offer a hotdesking or office hoteling arrangement where employees can reserve the use of a traditional office, at the company headquarters, a Remote Office Center, or other shared office facility.

Coworking

Main article: Coworking

Coworking is a social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share a common working area as well as the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space. Coworking facilities can range from shared space in formal offices to social areas such as a coffee shop.

Distributed work

Distributed work entails the conduct of organizational tasks in places that extend beyond the confines of traditional offices. It can refer to organizational arrangements that permit or require workers to perform work more effectively at any appropriate location, such as their homes and customers' sites - through the application of information and communication technology. An example is financial planners who meet clients during lunchtime with access to various financial planning tools and offerings on their mobile computers, or publishing executives who recommend and place orders for the latest book offerings to libraries and university professors, among others. If this type of distributed work replaces the workers commute, it would be considered telecommuting. If it did not, it would be considered telework.

Jellies

Some telecommuters and teleworkers form local groups that gather at coffee shops and other locations to socialize, collaborate, or just reduce the isolation of working on their own.[65]

See also

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from the English-language version of Wikiversity. The original article was at {{{1}}}. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Psychology Wiki, the text of Wikiversity is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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