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When It Comes to Telecommuting, Companies Save, But the U.S. Lags

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WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011- The Telework Research Network released a report Monday on the state of telecommuting , showing that individuals who work from home are more productive than those who report to an office everyday, but that the United States has a lower percentage of workers who telecommute than its international counterparts. The report was commissioned by Citrix Online, which provides remote access, support and online collaboration services.

In the United States, many consider telecommuting a perk rather than a standard business practice, as it is in most of the rest of the world. In Canada nearly four percent of the population teleworks or workshifts regularly. In the United Kingdom, it is even higher at a little over five percent of the population.

In contrast, the United States lags with only two percent of the population teleworking. The Telework Research Network found that nearly 40 percent of U.S. workers currently hold jobs that can be performed remotely.

“The benefits of workshifting have been known for quite some time now, so it’s easy to assume that everyone is doing it these days, but the truth of the matter is pretty sobering and more than a little disappointing,” said Brett Caine, President, Citrix Online a provider of virtual computing solutions. “Despite much evidence to the contrary, it seems old-fashioned notions that work must be seen to be done still prevail. And by offering workshifting merely as a perk for management, companies are missing out on some of the biggest benefits of flexible working.”

The federal government is actually one of the few major employers that promotes teleworking, with nearly five percent of employees working virtually. The government plans to increase the overall number of workers that telecommute by 50 percent. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO), for example, avoided $11 million in new real estate expenses through telework and office hoteling.

From 2005 to 2008, there was an increase of 74 percent of workers who worked from home at least one day a month, according to the report.

Those employers that allowed employees to telecommute found that workers saw an increase in productivity on days when employees were telecommuting. British telecom calculated an overall increase of 20 percent through telecommuting while Dow Chemical found an increase of over 30 percent.

“The reality is that managers simply don’t trust their employees to work untethered. That’s not going to change until companies start measuring performance based on results, rather than the number of hours someone sits at their desk,” said Kate Lister, president, Telework Research Network. “Management gurus have been telling us for decades that results-based management is the key to maximizing employee potential; and it’s true whether employees are a hundred feet or a hundred miles away.”

Employers were also able to reap large savings by having to maintain smaller offices and reduce energy use. An office saves an average of $16,000 for every worker that telecommutes.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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