In our “always on” digitally-connected society, it’s no surprise that more and more companies are offering telecommuting as a regular option for employees. But how do employees feel about working outside of the traditional office?
In a recent survey conducted by global research company Ipsos, more than 11,000 online connected employees from 24 countries were questioned on the pros and cons of telecommuting and its further potential growth as a global business practice.
The data revealed several interesting trends. For example, Ipsos found that:
- One in five (17 percent) employees who can be connected online to their workplace now ‘telecommute’ on a ‘frequent basis.’ Seven percent said they work every day from home, while another 10 percent said they do so ‘on a very consistent and constant basis like evenings and weekends.’
- Telecommuting is most popular 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.’
- Educated (25 percent), under the age of 35 (20 percent) and those with a high household income (20 percent) are more likely to telecommute on a frequent basis.
- And, men are more likely than women to telecommute.
In addition, a strong majority of those polled agreed on two general assessments of telecommuting: 1) It reduces stress due to less commuting, and 2) It helps keep talented women in the workforce instead of having them leave to raise children.
When asked the big question then, 34 percent of connected employees agreed they would be very likely to take the option to telecommute on a full time basis if their employer offered them the opportunity.
Interestingly, though, when Ipsos dug deeper, they survey uncovered somewhat of a mixed bag when respondents were asked about productivity and social interaction:
- 65 percent of those polled agreed the flexibility of telecommunication allows for maximum control over the work environment and schedule. But, the remaining 35 percent believed less supervision and the possibility of family/social distractions inhibit productivity.
- 62 percent agreed that not seeing colleagues face-to-face makes telecommuters feel socially isolated.
- 50 percent believed working remotely damages the chances for promotion and creates more family conflict due to the reduction of boundaries between work and family life.
Organizations need to address these concerns because, as other studies have shown, telecommuting can have offer significant benefits for employers.
For example, as I discussed in an earlier post, a study of Sun Microsystem’s “Open Work” platform revealed a strong connection between telecommunication and sustainability, and other research by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reached a similar conclusion. In fact, CEA found that a single day of telecommuting saves between 16 and 23-kilowatt hours of electricity or the equivalent of up to 12 hours of an average household’s electricity use. In addition, one day of telework eliminates the need for 1.4 gallons of gasoline and reduces CO2 emissions 17 to 23 kilograms, and a worker with a one-way commute of 22 miles, commuting five days a week, can save about 50 percent of the annual electricity consumption of the average household by working from home one day each week.