Could it be that the cubicle dweller is on the endangered species list? Current workplace trends seem to point that way. With the economic nosedive comes an increased need for companies to cut costs. This has driven the number of telecommuters up in a big way.
After employees, real estate is the second-biggest expense for many companies. This has caused employers to rethink their workplace strategy and more of them are allowing (or even requiring) employees to work from home at least part of the time. This dramatic change in the structure of the workplace was the subject of a report by architecture firm Gensler. According to Gensler Principal Joan Price,
Roughly 91 percent of employees do some work outside the office, and 67 percent of workers use mobile and wireless commuting, Gensler said. About 83 percent of organizations collaborate across different locations.
This is a trend on the upswing. It is no surprise that the estimates for the number of telecommuting employment opportunities are continuing to rise, year after year. Gartner Dataquest reported in 2008 that 25% of workers telecommuted in 2007, and in their recent 2009 projections, they estimate that number to continue to rise.
According to a report issued last Thursday, “Telework and the Technologies Enabling Work Outside Corporate Walls” by the Consumer Electronics Association more than 38 million people, or 37 percent of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least once a month.
For some companies, offering telecommute options for their employees is nothing new. Jet Blue Airlines has had a telecommuting policy for over 10 years and and Google has offered what they call “Quality of Life Benefits” since its inception.
Even the government is promising to get on the telecommuting train. According to the White House website, Obama plans to
Expand Flexible Work Arrangements: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will address this concern by creating a program to inform businesses about the benefits of flexible work schedules for productivity and establishing positive workplaces; helping businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increasing federal incentives for telecommuting. Obama and Biden will also make the federal government a model employer in terms of adopting flexible work schedules and permitting employees to petition to request flexible arrangements.
Many states have already implemented telecommuting policies. Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia issued a Greening of State Government executive order that included the following:
….the Code of Virginia requires each state agency to pursue a goal of not less than 20 percent of its eligible workforce telecommuting by January 1, 2010. Wherever possible, agencies and institutions should use telecommuting to the fullest extent to mitigate traffic congestion and reduce emissions.To encourage employers to fully explore the feasibility of telecommuting, I hereby declare Monday, August 3, 2009, a “Statewide Telework Day” and request that the directors of state agencies and institutions as well as private sector employers allow as many citizens as possible to telecommute on that day.
Back in June, the Minnesota Department of Transportation rolled out a telework campaign, called eWorkPlace, allowing businesses and individuals to log on to eworkplace-mn.com for free training, tools and tips. For a limited time, employers can register to learn about participating in a pilot program. Qualifying employers for the pilot programs will also be eligible for free or discounted personalized professional consulting to launch or expand telework at their workplace.