Work Is A Verb
No longer merely an HR perk, telework has become a successful, even necessary, corporate strategy.
Thanks to advances in technology, work no longer needs to be tethered to time or place. The shift from work as a noun, to work as a verb, has been called telework, telecommuting, e-work, or workshifting.
By any name, this new way of working has been adopted by thousands of companies and millions of employees in a wide range of industries around the globe. They’re proof that the traditional barriers such as management mistrust, security, cost, employee isolation, worries about career advancement, and difficulties collaborating can be overcome with a combination of technology and cultural change. And they’ve proven that the bottom-line benefits are worth the effort.
Three decades have passed since the concept of using technology to work outside of a traditional office was conceived. Today, a broad body of evidence corroborates the many economic, environmental, and societal benefits that researchers predicted.
Occasional telework (one day a month) has grown significantly in recent years – increasing 61% from 2005 to 2009, though few companies have adopted it as a regular, multiple days per week, business practice.
In fact, less than 2% of employees consider home their primary place of work, although theoretical estimates and empirical evidence suggest that approximately 40% hold jobs that could be performed remotely, at least part of the time.
Federal employees have been required to telework to the maximum extent possible since 2000 (though only 5.2% do so). However, the current administration’s proposed budget for 2011 calls for a 50% increase in telework. Both the House and Senate have passed bills aimed at enforcing federal telework mandates. More than two dozen federal, state, and local laws aimed at encouraging this practice have been proposed, and in many cases enacted, over the last two years.
In 2009, twelve members of Congress urged the House Transportation Committee and House Committee on Energy and Commerce to include telework incentives in the nation’s energy and transportation laws. In March of 2010, the White House Conference on Workplace Flexibility put its stamp on the importance of these strategies.
While worries over weather calamities, diseases, terrorism, fuel prices, and road closures frequently renew interest in telework, less transient issues will drive widespread adoption in the years ahead. Pollution sanctions, labor shortages, changing workforce dynamics, work-life balance issues, productivity, cost control, and traffic congestion conspire to reinforce that work is what people do, not a place they go.
Though cultural obstacles remain, technological innovation has removed many of the practical barriers. TechCast, a virtual think tank based at George Washington University, forecasts that 30% of the employees in industrialized nations will telework 2-3 days a week by the year 2019. What’s more, they estimate the market for related products and services at $400 billion a year.
Missing from the body of knowledge available to date is a quantitative synthesis of the potential benefits that telework can offer companies, employees, and communities. Our work, made available through this website aims to fill that gap.