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Has telecommuting finally become mainstream?

Jen A. Miller | April 5, 2016
As the desire for workplace flexibility continues to be an accepted fact of contemporary working life, more and more businesses are wrestling with how exactly to embrace – or curtail – telecommuting as the new normal.

Work from home? Flex time? Cube farm? What's work look like in your workplace – if you have a workplace at all? 

Allowing employees to work from home part or full-time continues apace. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 on days worked, 23 percent of employee persons did some or all of their work from home while 85 percent did some or all of their work at the workplace. 

This is only a slight uptick from 2003, the first year these measures were taken. But it is progress. Then, 19 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at home while 87 percent did some or all of their work at their workplace on days worked. But the relatively consistency of the numbers show that, for a good portion of the workplace population, telecommuting has become an integral part of the work-live balance. 

"It's about productivity and performance," says David Mizne, content manager of 15Five, a provider of employee feedback and engagement software. "If you're traveling an hour commute each way, it drains you. If I wake up, have my coffee, and do my yoga, I'm probably going to be productive." 

It's also about the work/life balance, he says, something that not just millennials are asking for, but older employees, too. And companies may save a bit of money in the process, too. 

Workplace disruption

In its recent survey of over 500 managers, supervisors and executives, 15Five found that 53 percent of companies have a standard workplace, meaning that employees come into the office four or more days a week; 37 percent have a main office space with some people working remotely and 10 percent have no office space at all. 

The reasons why companies allowed these previously untraditional work arrangements: 24 percent said that it improves the quality of life for employees; 21 percent said that productivity improved and 19 percent said that it gave them access to the best candidates regardless of geographic location. 

"We're certainly seeing that millennials do want that work/life balance, and this is one of those ways that it can be achieved," says Mizne. But they're not the only who want that flexibly from their employers: He said that older workers with children are looking for more creative work solutions, and employers are giving it to them. 

Technology has allowed this to happen: That's obvious. A lack of communication barrier is what keeps it going. In the 15Five survey, 41 percent of respondents said that communication with remotely working employees was about the same, and 22 percent of respondents said they had better communication with remote employees. 


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