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Has Telework Growth Slowed?

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The latest research from the Telework Research Network indicates that while telework is growing, it’s not increasing at the pace we might have expected. According to 2009 U.S. Census data, 61 percent more employees considered home their primary place of work versus 2005. But that number translates to only 2.3 percent of the total workforce.

When compared with a recent report from WorldatWork, which indicates that the overall number of teleworkers declined between 2008 and 2010, a trend emerges. The frequency of telework has increased, meaning fewer workshifters are doing more flexible work.

Here at Workshifting, we were curious to test this trend, so we decided to post our own independent poll on the subject. The results of our completely unofficial Facebook survey are below:

workshifting-fb-poll.jpg

Interestingly enough, there’s some alignment with the trend. Fewer people are workshifting, but those who are have seen an increased workload. This poses some thought-provoking questions:

Do people really want to workshift?
Maybe as attractive as telework sounds, it’s not for everyone.

Have companies been able to quantify the costs and benefits?
There are some obvious advantages to telework, but if businesses haven’t been able to attach a dollar sign to them, then workshifting may still be considered a “nice to have” versus a “cost-effective solution”.

Are enough tools and resources available to support the workshifting lifestyle?
Working remotely is certainly not as easy as it looks. Or, do we have too many tools and not enough time to sort through them all?

Have businesses figured out how to manage people they can’t see?
This might sound crazy, but a huge component of telework is holding employees accountable for results instead of time worked. Is it possible the only people workshifting are the ones who can hold themselves accountable when businesses can not?

While this blog focuses on the positives of telework, it is essential to look at both sides of the spectrum. Adding workshifting to your workplace can bring valuable and tangible benefits, but if done incorrectly, it can have the opposite result.

Identifying the keys to successful workshifting is crucial, because it creates a proven, effective solution for businesses and determines issues ahead of time that can block an effective implementation.

What do you see as the key components to a successful telework program?

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  • http://teleworkresearchnetwork.com/ Kate Lister

    Kate Lister of the Telework Research Network here. I’m the author of one of the studies you mentioned. I thought I might elaborate on the telework trend.

    Our research (based on U.S. Census/American Community Survey data) shows that regular telecommuting (half-time or more) has increased steadily for the past 5 years. Though the growth slowed during the recession, it still far outpaced that of the overall workforce (which grew only about 4% in the same period and actually lost ground in 2009) and the self-employed workforce (which grew less than 2% from 2005 to 2009 and declined in both 2008 and 2009).

    WorldatWork’s data is based on a survey of about occasional telecommuting (as infrequent as one day a month). Their 2011 report showed that in the wake of a 74 percent increase in occasional telecommuters between 2005 and 2008, there was a small decline in 2008 and 2010. A little less than half of that decline was the result of decline in the overall labor market.

    The WorldatWork report also says: “At first glance, the data might lead most to conclude that teleworking stalled in 2010. However, the decline likely is due a combination of factors: fewer Americans in the workforce overall due to high unemployment, higher anxiety surrounding job security, and lack of awareness of telework options.”

    On balance, the small loss of occasional telecommuters reported by WorldatWork is about equal to the gain in those who do so regularly. Perhaps companies realized they could save money by converting occasional teleworkers to regular ones.