To Telecommute or Not to Telecommute?

A new survey reveals that white collar workers have mixed feelings about the option to work from home. It's not the isolation they fear; it's a lack of professional advancement.

Not every employee is chomping at the bit to telecommute. A survey commissioned by Steelcase, a manufacturer of office furniture, shows that professionals have decidedly mixed feelings about the option to work from home.

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On the one hand, respondents believe it's important for employers to let their employees telecommute. They think that companies that let their employees work from home will be more successful than companies that don't because they believe that working outside the office increases employees' morale and reduces attrition. Respondents also see working from home as a way to help them achieve work-life balance.

On the other hand, many of these same respondents worry about their employers' perceptions of telecommuting. Almost half (46 percent) of the respondents' employers allow them to work from home, but less than one-third (32 percent) participate in telecommuting arrangements. That's because they feel that their employers really prefer that they work in an office—both to control the work environment and to prevent a decline in productivity. Respondents also worry that working from home will hamper their career growth.

The survey, which queried 700 white collar professionals, was conducted over the phone in early June. Here are the highlights:

  • More than half of respondents said it's important for a company to endorse telecommuting.
  • Of the 32 percent of respondents who have the option to telecommute but don't, 71 percent say it's because they feel their employers would rather they work in the office to prevent a dip in productivity and 64 percent say it's because they think they'll miss out on a promotion.
  • 80 percent of respondents think existing technology allows them to remain just as connected to the office while working at home.
  • Half of respondents say they're more productive in a different work environment.
  • More than half think companies that promote telecommuting will be more successful than companies that don't.
  • Over 80 percent say that having the option to work from home increases employee morale and reduces turnover.
  • 80 percent believe the telecommuting trend will continue to grow over the next five years.
  • 62 percent think their employers prefer that their employees work in the office to prevent a lack of communication; 41 percent believe that their employers don't let employees telecommute because they think the cost of the technology needed to support telecommuters is prohibitive.
  • 61 percent of employees who telecommute do so balance their family and work lives; 37 percent do so to reduce their carbon footprint.
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