Telecommuting will rise to include 43% of US workers by 2016

It was shocking to me anyway that we already have 34 million Americans working at least occasionally from home today. And that's with broadband to only 56% of US homes.
Written by Ted Schadler, Contributor

It was shocking to me anyway that we already have 34 million Americans working at least occasionally from home today. And that's with broadband to only 56% of US homes. But that's what the data say. And with our Consumer Technographics survey of 61,033 US and Canadian consumers, you can be confident that the numbers are accurate.

But it's even more surprising to run the numbers forward to 2016 and see how many Americans will work from home then: 63 million! We just published our US Telecommuting forecast that shows how an additional 29 million telecommuters will enter the remote workforce. What's going on?

  • First, broadband pipes to the home, work laptops, and secure VPNs bring the tools that most information workers need right to the kitchen table or bedroom office. And collaboration tools like instant messaging, Web conferencing, team sites, and desktop video conferencing make it ever-easier to stay in touch and contribute to the project.
  • Second, employees rightfully point out that they will save time in commuting and can get more done for their employers with that time. The benefits of work flexibility and leaving gas in the tank are also real.
  • Third, most telecommuters work from home only occasionally. The number of full time telecommuters today is small compared with "regular telecommuters" (1-4 days per week) and "occasional telecommuters" (less than 1 day a week -- think snow days and Friday's before long weekends).
  • Fourth, it's actually managers and other high-influence employees that are most likely to work from home regularly or occasionally. And that means their growing comfort with the ability to monitor and manage employee productivity will spill over into their support for a telecommuting workforce.

As an enlightened Information & Knowledge Management Professional, what does this mean for you?

  • What it means (WIM) #1: You should get on top of who in the workforce is already working from home and who would like to. That means surveying your workforce to determine how best to provision and support them. Note that this workforce provisioning analysis is something that we're seeing more of every day, and we're engaged already in projects with clients to do it.
  • WIM #2: It's time to look at your policies in support or in conflict with telecommuting. Do they reflect today's broadband-enabled home? You should call a meeting with HR to find out more.
  • WIM #3: Check out your remote workforce toolkit. Does the VPN work well? How about the laptop provisioning guidelines? Is Instant Messaging a priority for your firm? Have you tried desktop video conferencing? Are your teamsite tools ready to support the remote workforce?
  • WIM #4: Find the pockets of telecommuting support in your organization and create a collaboration environment for managers to support each other. There are real issues for a remote workforce around onboarding new employees, managing a younger workforce, establishing clear key performance indicators, learning how to manage by objective, and the like. The experienced managers in your organization can help each other with collaboration like wikis, training, and portal resources.

How's the remote workforce progressing in your company? Please let me know.

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