||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
Telecommuting, remote work, or telework is a work arrangement in which employees do not commute to a central place of work. A person who telecommutes is known as a "telecommuter", "teleworker", and sometimes as a "home-sourced" employee. Many telecommuters work from home, while others, sometimes called "nomad workers", use mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or other locations. According to a Reuters poll, 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".
The terms "telecommuting" and "telework" were coined by Jack Nilles in 1973.
"Telework" refers to the usage of information technologies (such as telecommunications and computers) for work-related activities. It moves the workplace to the workers, instead of moving the workers to the workplace which is the typical scenario for professionals. Although the concepts of "telecommuting" and "telework" are closely related, there is still a difference between the two. All types of technology-assisted work conducted outside of a centrally located work space (including work undertaken in the home, outside sales calls, etc.) are regarded as telework. Telecommuting refers more specifically to work undertaken at a location that reduces commuting time. These locations can be inside the home or at some other remote workplace, which is facilitated through a broadband connection, computer or phone lines.
As a broader concept than telecommuting, telework has four dimensions in its definitional framework: work location, that can be anywhere outside of a centralized organizational work place; usage of ICTs (information and communication technologies) as technical support for telework; time distribution, referring to the amount of time replaced in the traditional workplace; and the diversity of employment relationships between employer and employee, ranging from contract work to traditional full-time employment.
A frequently repeated motto is that "work is something you do, not something you travel to." Variations of this include: "Work is something we DO, not a place that we GO" and "Work is what we do, not where we are."
Telecommuting and telework statistics 
As of 2012[update], 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, but in 2008 only 2.5 million employees, excluding the self-employed, considered their home to be their primary place of business. The number of employees reported to have worked from their home "on their primary job" in 2010 has been reported as 9.4 million (6.6% of the workforce), though, this number might include the self-employed.
Very few companies employ large numbers of home-based full-time staff. The call center industry is one notable exception: several U.S. call centers employ thousands of home-based workers. For many employees, the option to work from home is available as an employee benefit but most participants only do so a fraction of the time.
Top paid among work-from-home sectors are home-based physicians and radiologists in which it is suspected that they earn near the $1,975 median weekly income of physicians, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it a six-figure job. Studies show that at-home workers are willing to earn up to 30% less and experience heightened productivity. 
In 2009, the United States Office of Personnel Management reported that approximately 103,000 federal employees were teleworking. However, less than 14,000 were teleworking three or more days per week.
In January 2012, Reuters, drawing from an Ipsos/Reuters poll, predicted that telecommuting was "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."
On December 9, 2010, the U.S. Federal Government passed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 in order to improve Continuity of Operations and ensure essential Federal functions are maintained during emergency situations; to promote management effectiveness when telework is used to achieve reductions in organizational and transit costs and environmental impacts; and to enhance the work-life balance of workers. For example, telework allows employees to better manage their work and family obligations and thus helps retain a more resilient Federal workforce that is better able to meet agency goals.
The roots of telecommuting are found in early 1970s technology that linked satellite offices to downtown mainframes through dumb terminals using telephone lines as a network bridge. The ongoing and exponential decreases in cost along with the increases in performance and usability of personal computers, forged the way for moving the office to the home. By the early 1980s, branch offices and home workers were able to connect to organizational mainframes using personal computers and terminal emulation.
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 since it allows workers to communicate over long distances, saving significant amounts of travel time and cost. As broadband Internet connections become more commonplace, more and more workers have adequate bandwidth at home to use these tools to link their home to their corporate intranet and internal phone networks.
The adoption of local area networks promoted the sharing of resources, and client–server computing allowed for even greater decentralization. Today, telecommuters can carry laptop PCs which they can use both at the office, at home, and nearly anywhere else. The rise of cloud computing technology and Wi-Fi availability have enabled access to remote servers via a combination of portable hardware and software.
Furthermore, with their improving technology and increasing popularity, smartphones are becoming widely used in telework. They substantially increase the mobility of the worker and the degree of coordination with their organization. The technology of mobile phones and personal digital assistant (PDA) devices allows instant communication through text messages, camera photos, and video clips from anywhere and at any time.
Potential benefits 
Telecommuting offers benefits to communities, employers, and employees.
For communities, telecommuting may offer fuller employment (by increasing the employability of circumstantially marginalized groups such as work at home parents and caregivers, the disabled, retirees, and people living in remote areas), reducing traffic congestion and traffic accidents, relieving pressure on transportation infrastructure, reducing greenhouse gases, reducing energy use, improving disaster preparedness, and reducing vulnerability to terrorism.
For companies, telecommuting expands the talent pool, reduces the spread of illness, reduces costs including real-estate footprint, increases productivity, reduces their carbon footprint and energy usage, offers a means of complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) if they're American, reduces turnover and absenteeism, improves employee morale, enhances continuity-of-operations strategies, improves their ability to handle business across multiple time zones, and augments their cultural adaptability. Some estimates suggest that full-time telework can save companies approximately $20,000 per employee.
Telecommuting individuals, or more specifically those in "work from home" arrangements, may find that it 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 thousands of dollars per year in travel and work-related costs.
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.
In general, telecommuting benefits society in economic, environmental, and personal ways. The wide application of ICTs provides increasing benefits for employees, especially ones with physical disabilities. It also leads to a more energy-saving society without adversely impacting economic growth.
Environmental benefits 
Telecommuting gained ground in the United States in 1996 after "Clean Air Act amendments were adopted with the expectation of reducing carbon dioxide and ground-level ozone levels by 25 percent." The act required companies with over 100 employees to encourage car pools, public transportation, shortened work weeks, 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 280,000,000 barrels (45,000,000 m3) 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 fuel savings would total more than twice what the U.S. currently produces from all renewable energy sources combined.
Productivity and employee benefits 
Telecommuting has long been promoted as a way to substantially increase employee productivity. A working-from-home-related experiment conducted using 242 employees of a large Chinese travel agency by professors at Stanford and Beijing University found that employees randomly assigned to work at home for 9 months increased their output by 13.5% versus the office-based control group. This improvement in output arose from working 9% more hours from saved commuting time and from 3.5% improved efficiency from quieter working conditions. The study also found that home-workers reported significantly higher job-satisfaction scores and their quit rates fell by almost 50%. However, home workers' promotion rates dropped by half due to apparent performance declines, indicating a potential career cost of home-working. More broadly, a review of over 80 older case-studies and surveys reported "little clear evidence exists that telework increases job satisfaction and productivity, as it is often asserted to do."
Telework flexibility is a desirable prerequisite 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. In earlier surveys, 33% considered telework the best recruiting incentive, and half considered it second best.
International evidence and experience shows that telework can deliver a broad range of benefits to individuals, employers and society as a whole. Telework is a shift in the way business is accomplished which can make a difference overtime. As an example, a recent study revealed that NBN-enabled telework is expected to add $8.3 billion to Gross Domestic Product by 2020, creating the equivalent of an additional 25,000 full-time jobs. Around 10,00 of these jobs will be in regional Australia. When it comes to environment, it has been estimated that if 10 per cent of Australian employees were to telework 50 percent of the time, it would save 120 million litres of fuel and 320,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. That rate of telework would also deliver a productivity benefit of between $1.4 billion and $1.9 billion a year.
Advantages and disadvantages meta-analysis 
A meta-analysis of 46 studies of telecommuting involving 12,833 employees conducted by Ravi Gajendran and David A. Harrison in the Journal of Applied Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), found that telecommuting has largely positive consequences for employees and employers. In their meta-analytic study, Gajendran and Harrison found that telecommuting had modest but beneficial effects on employees' job satisfaction, autonomy, stress levels, manager-rated job performance, and (lower) work-family conflict. Although a number of scholars and managers[who?] had previously expressed fears that employee careers might suffer and workplace relationships might be damaged because of telecommuting, the meta-analysis found that there are 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 co-workers, even though it did reduce 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."
Barriers to continued growth of telecommuting include distrust from employers and personal disconnectedness for employees. In the telework circumstance, employees and supervisors have to work harder to maintain relationships with co-workers. A isolation from daily activities arise of the company and may be less aware of other things going on to the company and a possible hatred from other employees arises from other employees who do not telecommute.
Telecommuting has come to be viewed by some as more of a "complement rather than a substitute for work in the workplace".
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." 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.
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." The drop could also be due to inadequate office setup. Additionally, a 1999 study claimed that "70 minutes of each day in a regular office are wasted by interruptions, yakking around the photocopier, and other distractions". Over the long term, though, surveys found that productivity of the teleworker will climb; over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among telecommuters, according to a 2008 survey. 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.
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. A decrease in productivity due to continual procrastination with a lack of supervision will result to a poor performance in the quality of work of the employee. These factors could be the negative influence that may affect a person's career.
Telecommuting and work-at-home scams 
Work-at-home and telecommuting scams are very common; many of these job offers are scams appealing to a "get rich quick" mindset but in fact require an investment up front with no pay off at the end.
The problem is so pervasive that in 2006 the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established 'Project False Hopes', a Federal and state law enforcement sweep that targeted 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 or financial freedom that they were promised." The FBI warned of such scams on February 2009, as well.
Of the more than three million web entries resulting from a search on the phrase "work at home," more than 95% of the results were scams, links to scams, or other dead ends. Work at home scams earn their perpetrators more than $500 million per year, and 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. According to Christine Durst, CEO of Staffcentrix, there is a 48-to-1 ratio of scams to legitimate offerings among work-at-home job leads on the Internet.
Current trends 
Businesses often provide teleworkers access to corporate in-house applications, accessible by a remote device such as a tablet or laptop. These devices are gaining popularity in the workforce but come with different underlying operating systems and therefore a variety compatibility issues. However, with the use of desktop virtualization any legacy application or operating system can be accessed from a mobile device, as this device is primary used as a display unit while the processing is performed on the company's internal server.
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.
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 would enable 50 percent of eligible agency employees to telework one or more days per week by 2010. As of 2007[update], 10 percent of eligible GSA employees telework, compared to 4.2 percent for the overall Federal workforce. Her goals were to increase participation to 20 percent by the end of 2008, 40 percent by the end of 2009, and finally 50 percent by 2010.
A 2007 study 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).
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.
On July 14, 2010, the House passed the Telework Improvements Act of 2010 (H.R. 1722) with a vote of 290-131. 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. On December 9, 2010 President Obama signed H.R. 1722, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, into law. The Telework Enhancement Act of 2012 provided a framework for U.S. agencies to offer teleworking as a viable option to employees. By increasing the number of employees who telework, the Telework Enhancement Act has three main objectives. (1) Improve continuity of operations, (2) Promote management Effectiveness and (3) Enhance work-life balance.
The 2012 Status Telework in the Federal Government features teleworking highlights from the past 18 months as well as goals for improving teleworking in the future. Reports finding that all 87 agencies participating in the Data Cell had established telework policies and 73 percent of the policies met the Telework Act Requirements. More than 684,000 federal employees were deemed eligible to telework, this represents approximately 32 percent of all federal employees. More than 144,000 federal employees had written teleworking agreements with their agencies. 27 percent of teleworkers worked remotely three or more days per week.
In addition to the findings, the reports examine teleworking at the Department of Defense. According to the report, there are more than 793,000 employees in the DoD and of those employees, 134,477 were deemed eligible for teleworking. Overall, the federal government seems to have embraced teleworking and is attempting to create more remote working opportunities for employees. In closing, the report listed several ways that the government could make more jobs available through telework. Suggestions include using telework as a tool to retain employees at or near retirement age and using telework to expand hiring of highly trained disabled veterans.
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, including receptionists or administrators. 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.
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. 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.
Remote office centers 
Remote office centers (ROCs) are distributed centers for leasing offices to individuals from multiple companies. A remote office center provides professional grade network access, phone system, security system, mail stop and optional services for additional costs. ROCs are generally located in areas near to 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.
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 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 or 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. If this type of distributed work replaces the worker's commute, it would be considered telecommuting. If not, it would be telework (see §1. Definition).
A Jelly is "a casual work event where everyone's invited. It's for anyone who'd like to work alongside other creative people." 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. The project was covered by Wired, the The Today Show, and other media outlets.
See also 
|Wikiversity has learning materials about Telecommuting|
- Canadian Telework Association (CTA)
- Comparison of office suites The online versions of office suites mentioned there are useful for telecommuters.
- Corporate wiki
- Home Work Convention, 1996
- Hot desking
- Labour market flexibility
- Putting-out system
- Small office/home office
- Study (room)
- Virtual Teams
- Virtual volunteering
- Work at home scheme
- Working Home Guide
- Work-life balance
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- Jelly! - Casual coworking is awesome. Recent Changes
- Anna Jane Grossman. "Freelancers Forgo Office Space for Casual Coworking". Wired.com. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
- "Jelly - Working together is more fun for everyone!". Workatjelly.com. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
- Framework agreement on telework, 16.07.2002 - EU agreement among ETUC, UNICE/UEAPME and CEEP
- Telecommuting at the Open Directory Project
- Telework Australia