Whether you love or hate the idea of working from home, the numbers are showing that the practice has grown significantly of late. According to a new report, the number of full-time remote workers nationwide has almost doubled in the past decade. That report also found that 84 percent of workers who worked remotely did so at least once a week.
While the number of remote workers has soared in the past decade, just over 2 percent of workers nationwide participate in the practice. The report found that child care workers, writers, authors and sales representatives were among the most likely professions to work remotely. Records clerks, insurance underwriters, lawyers and computer software developers saw the largest gains in the number of workers starting to work remotely over the past decade.
"A confluence of factors, led by the rapid expanse of sophisticated, secure and relatively inexpensive communication technologies, has sparked a quiet revolution in where and how many Americans do their jobs," Amy Lui Abel, director of human capital research at The Conference Board and a co-author of the report, said. "To take full advantage of the opportunities teleworking provides — while avoiding the many potential pitfalls — employers and employees must engage in an open dialogue that establishes the mutual expectations and responsibilities that come with this new workplace culture."
Benefits of working from home include more than the obvious convenience it provides for workers. According to the report, remote workers said they had improved productivity as a result of the ability to focus on working without distractions of an office. Additionally, workers also said that they were better suited to finish tasks, thanks to the ability they had to change their schedule to accommodate demands as they occur.
Despite these benefits, there are several significant challenges for remote workers. Chief among them is the lack of support from colleagues and managers. Workers also said that they felt cut off from the office and potentially faced resentment from other workers. Remote workers also have a bigger challenge escaping work since technologies allow them to be always connected. This can potentially lead to burnout for workers.
Avoiding these pitfalls is as simple as making sure that companies ensure there are guidelines and rules for workers who work from home. According to the report, these steps include:
- Building strong team relationships that bring together teleworkers and others.
- Building a strong community of teleworkers that can share experiences and offer advice online or in-person.
- Promoting an organizational culture that recognizes the needs and talents of teleworkers.
- Growing the technical literacy of managers so they "buy in" to advantages of some employees working remotely and can identify potential telework opportunities.
- Refining performance and reward systems to maximize individual initiative and minimize "slacking off" and trust issues.
- Creating established no-meeting times or "isolation zones" to ease information overload for all employees.
- Implementing flexible policies tailored to family needs for retaining talented workers.
- Integrating support for traveling workers as part of a larger teleworking program.
- Broadening recruitment to attract talent especially well served by telework.
"Research concurs that the dual lynchpins of effective teleworking are strong management and robust IT," Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board and co-author of the study, said. "With support from human resources, managers at all levels must make the 'mental shift' to trusting that employees are getting the job done without seeing them every day — and to have the strength to act decisively when they're not. On the technology side, the right hardware and software choices backed up by abundant support staff can make the difference between a seamless transition and hundreds or thousands of man-hours lost to bugs and faulty connections."
The information in theIncredible Disappearing Office: Making Telework Work report was based on data from the United States Census Bureau and other private sources. The research was conducted by the Conference Board.
Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer David Mielach at Dmielach@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @D_M89.