Working from home, or telecommuting, is a funny thing. It often gets a bad rap, haunted by the stereotype of pajama-wearing, couch-slouching, snack food-munching employee with one eye on the laptop and the other on the television.
The truth is quite different, as anyone with telecommuting experience knows. In fact, more and more American workers are telecommuting, but they might not realize it.
According to the recent American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more Americans are working from home in addition to their regular in-office hours.
It’s part of the constantly blurring lines between life and work in today’s workplace. According to the ATUS, workers are spending more time on work, and almost one quarter are doing some of that work from home. When it comes to professional jobs, that number is more than one-third.
This is a trend. The number of self-employed who are working from home has decreased (by 3.4 percent), but numbers from GlobalAnalyticsWorkplace.com tell us that up to a quarter of salaried jobs now have a telecommuting option, and that a whopping 80 to 90 percent of workers want the option to work from home part-time. There are about 3.7 million workers who telecommute part-time, and there’s been an increase of 103 percent work-from-homers in the past ten years.
But if you work at a Fortune 1000 company, you probably already know this. That’s because those employees are already spending about half their time out of the office.
Work is creating more stress for workers, according to a new survey from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, and most employers aren’t doing much to address this issue.
One way they can do it is by expanding telecommuting options. There’s plenty of research—which you’ve probably heard about—that shows working from home is good for employee productivity, morale, and satisfaction. For example, one survey found that many parents want the flexibility of working from home to help balance the demands of child care.
But many workers want to limit their telecommuting to around two days a week. Otherwise, they begin to feel isolated and miss interacting with fellow workers.
Successful telecommuting requires a framework and clear policies in order to benefit both employer and employee. In Minnesota, a state with a high percentage of telecommuters, eWorkPlace Minnesota is a state-funded program that helps companies set up programs. It provides a 15-step implementation guideline that includes training, policies, agreements, technology, and guidelines.
Take a page from computer company Dell, where a quarter of employees already officially telecommute—and the company is on a drive to double that number in the next four years. Worker location is irrelevant, one company rep told CNN, and the company is even redesigning its offices to increase communal work space.
Done right, telecommuting can be great for some workers, some of the time. More employers need to recognize telecommuting as a fact of contemporary work life, and adjust ideas and policies to accommodate this element of the future of work.
For more on how flexible work policies can improve employee morale and boost your business, see Not Offering Flex Time? You’re In Trouble.