Telecommuting Gaining Ground: Study Shows More IT Employees Working Remotely Today Than Five Years Ago

Jul 26, 2007, 01:00 ET from Robert Half Technology

    MENLO PARK, Calif., July 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The proliferation of
 wireless technologies and feature-rich Internet applications is making it
 easier for information technology (IT) professionals to work outside of the
 office. A new study by Robert Half Technology shows that telecommuting is
 becoming more commonplace among IT professionals. Nearly half (44 percent)
 of chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed said their companies' IT
 workforce is telecommuting at a rate that is the same or higher than five
 years ago; only 3 percent said IT staff work remotely less frequently today
 than five years ago (see table 1). Improved retention and morale, and
 increased productivity were cited as the greatest benefits among firms that
 allow telecommuting.
     The national poll includes responses from more than 1,400 CIOs from a
 stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. It
 was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half
 Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a
 project and full-time basis.
     "Enhanced connectivity tools provide IT professionals greater
 flexibility and the option to work even when they are away from the
 office," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half
 Technology. "Consequently, working remotely is more commonplace today and
 more acceptable."
     Telecommuting Attitudes Explored
     34 percent of CIOs whose companies allow telecommuting cited improved
 retention and morale through enhanced work/life balance as the greatest
 benefit. Increased productivity due to reduced commute time was cited by 28
 percent of respondents (see table 2).
     "For some, working from home on occasion can result in greater
 productivity because there are fewer interruptions than in the office," Lee
 said. "Many IT professionals also appreciate not having to commute every
 day given today's high gasoline prices."
     Companies may need to balance the desire of staff to work remotely
 against the expectation of accessibility, however. Indeed, survey
 respondents indicated that telecommuting programs can have drawbacks.
 Nearly half (44 percent) of all CIOs surveyed felt that quality of work
 suffers due to diminished in-person contact with colleagues (see table 3A).
 Furthermore, nearly one in three (30 percent) CIOs surveyed felt that
 telecommuting employees are not as productive because they have less
 oversight (see table 3B).
     "Telecommuting isn't a viable option for every type of employee in
 every scenario," Lee commented. "Managers who need face-to-face interaction
 with staff, or individuals who meet frequently with clients, for example,
 may find that working from home hampers their ability to build strong
 business relationships."
     Implementing Telecommuting Programs
     While telecommuting can benefit employers and employees alike, it's
 important that companies have the appropriate infrastructure in place to
 facilitate staff working remotely. For example, nearly a third of CIOs (31
 percent) surveyed felt that telecommuting employees generate too many
 security risks because they need to access elements such as corporate
 networks, systems and intellectual property off-site (see table 3C).
     Clearly communicating guidelines about telecommuting also is necessary.
 Lee noted, "It's important that employers set expectations up front about
 who can telecommute and how often they can do so, in order to avoid
 misunderstandings that might arise during a project."
     To help ensure a successful telecommuting program, Lee suggests
 employers consider the following questions:
     -- What IT jobs are best suited for telecommuting?  Alternative work
        arrangements are most suitable for individuals whose jobs can be
        performed with relative autonomy.
     -- How frequently should IT employees be allowed to work remotely?
        Consider allowing employees to work from home one day a week, and try
        to schedule weekly meetings on days employees are on-site to provide
        project updates.
     -- How will you ensure effective communication between team members?
        Keeping a schedule of workers' on-site availability, and where and how
        they can be reached when off-site, can keep work flowing smoothly.
     With more than 100 locations in North America, Europe and Asia, Robert
 Half Technology is a leading provider of technology professionals for
 initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems
 integration to network security and technical support. Robert Half
 Technology offers online job search services at
     Note to editor: Research findings and full-color survey charts are
 available at
     Robert Half Technology Telecommuting Survey Findings
     Table 1.
     CIOs were asked, "Which of the following statements best applies to your
     company's IT workforce?"
        A higher proportion of your IT workers telecommute
          today than five years ago                                   21%
        The same proportion telecommute today as did five
          years ago                                                   23%
        A lower proportion of your IT workers telecommute today        3%
        Not applicable, you do not allow your IT workforce to
          telecommute                                                 51%
        Other/don't know                                               2%
     Table 2.
     Respondents whose IT workers telecommute also were asked, "Which of the
     following is the greatest benefit to your firm?"
        Improves retention and morale of IT workforce through
          enhanced work/life balance                                  34%
        Increases productivity of IT workforce by reducing commute
          time                                                        28%
        Saves money by requiring less office space                    12%
        Allows hiring of employees in lower cost-of-living areas
           who don't require high salaries                             6%
        Other                                                          4%
        Don't know                                                    16%
     Table 3.
     CIOs were asked, "Do you agree or disagree with the following statements
     about telecommuting, as they apply to your company?"
                                                        Disagree  Agree  know
     A. The quality of work suffers due to less
        face-to-face contact with colleagues              48%      44%    8%
     B. Telecommuting employees have little oversight,
        which makes them less productive                  60%      30%   10%
     C. Telecommuting employees generate too many
        security concerns                                 62%      31%    7%

SOURCE Robert Half Technology