Technological advancements have led employers to embrace the idea of telecommuting, which is a good thing since work flexibility is a preferred option for young professionals.
According to a 2010 survey by the National Small Business Association, the amount of employers who encourage or allow telecommuting has jumped to 44% in 2010 from 19% in 2007.
“The workplace is changing, and I think that people want more flexibility in their lives and companies are becoming aware of that,” says Sharon Davis, owner of 2Work-At-Home.com. “They are realizing that if they want the most qualified candidates, they need to be looking outside the box, and telecommuting is one of the ways to do that.”
New technology has made working remotely much easier and convenient. All telecommuters need is a phone, computer with Internet access, and for some, access to company computers and files via remote login.
Telecommuting is particularly appealing to Generation Y-ers who account for 42% of the telecommuting population, according to a 2009 study by the Telework Advisory Group.
“They have great computer skills--they know the technology and they can keep up with the technology,” says Dottie Callina, manager of communications with the Better Business Bureau serving metro Atlanta.
But working at home doesn’t mean lounging around in your pajamas all day.
“A lot of people have the idea that telecommuting requires you [to be] working from home and that's not necessarily the case,” Davis says. “It's working from anywhere other than the office or where the company is located.”
Telecommuting helps employees balance work and family obligations, and is particularly appealing to Millennials, who according to the experts, like the flexibility in case they aren’t ready to settle down.
“Trends show that this generation will not stay with a job as a career for the rest of their lives,” says Callina. “Telecommuting allows them to work on a schedule that fits their personality and at a time of day where they feel most energized to do with they have to do.”
It’s a win for employers as well.
“Studies have shown that telecommuters are more productive than their office-bound colleagues,” Davis says. “They use less sick time, there’s less tardiness, [they] have improved morale, and companies can draw from a wider pool of candidates because they're not geographically limited.”
Telecommuting cuts overhead expenses for companies because they need less office space and supplies. It also cuts down on inter-office socializing and distractions, leading to an increase in productivity.
Telecommuting is not for everyone; you have to be self-disciplined and independent enough to work on your own. If you thrive in a group setting, you may miss the interaction with your colleagues.
“You're not getting face time with people,” says David Lucantoni, principal consultant for DLT Consulting LLC, who advocates telecommuting and has successfully teleworked for many years. “I can always e-mail people questions, but that is not the same as being there in real time as topics come up.”
While some may feel isolated from the social aspect of an office space, telecommuters may also feel excluded from assignments that could advance their career.
“Sometimes it can be difficult in that you feel that you might lose out on opportunities that present themselves in informal settings or in meetings in an office,” says Davis. “That can be a problem for some people, where they feel like they're not going to have these opportunities that can turn into promotions or getting special projects because you don't have the face time.”
Davis also says it is difficult for some people to make a clear division between work life and home life.
“When you telecommute, it's really easy to find yourself checking e-mail or finishing a project long after you would have left your office if you worked in office,” she says. “You can end up working more hours.”
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