Telecommuting Gaining Ground Among Employees

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<p><strong>Menlo Park, Calif. &mdash; July 26</strong><br />The proliferation of wireless technologies and feature-rich Internet applications is making it easier for IT professionals to work outside of the office, according to a study by Robert Half Technology.</p><p>It shows that telecommuting is becoming more common among IT professionals &mdash; nearly half (44 percent) of chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed said their companies&rsquo; IT workforce is telecommuting at a rate that is the same or higher than five years ago.</p><p>Only 3 percent said IT staff work remotely less frequently today than five years ago.</p><p>Improved retention and morale, as well as increased productivity, were cited as the greatest benefits among firms that allow telecommuting.<br /><br />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.&nbsp; </p><p>It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis.<br /><br />&ldquo;Enhanced connectivity tools provide IT professionals greater flexibility and the option to work even when they are away from the office,&rdquo; said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director. &ldquo;Consequently, working remotely is more commonplace today and more acceptable.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;<br />Thirty-four percent of CIOs whose companies allow telecommuting cited improved retention and morale through enhanced work-life balance as the greatest benefit. Increased productivity because of reduced commute time was cited by 28 percent of respondents.</p><p>&quot;For some, working from home on occasion can result in greater productivity because there are fewer interruptions than in the office,&rdquo; Lee said. &ldquo;Many IT professionals also appreciate not having to commute every day, given today&rsquo;s high gasoline prices.&rdquo;<br /><br />Companies might need to balance the desire of staff to work remotely against the expectation of accessibility, however &mdash;&nbsp; survey respondents indicated that telecommuting programs can have drawbacks. </p><p>Nearly half (44 percent) of all CIOs surveyed felt that quality of work suffers because of diminished in-person contact with colleagues. Further, nearly one in three (30 percent) CIOs surveyed felt telecommuting employees are not as productive because they have less oversight.</p><p>&ldquo;Telecommuting isn&rsquo;t a viable option for every type of employee in every scenario,&rdquo; Lee said. &ldquo;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.&rdquo;<br /><br />Although telecommuting can benefit employers and employees alike, it&rsquo;s important that companies have the appropriate infrastructure in place to facilitate staff working remotely.&nbsp; </p><p>For example, nearly a third of CIOs (31 percent) surveyed felt telecommuting employees generate too many security risks because they need to access elements such as corporate networks, systems and intellectual property off-site.<br />&nbsp;<br />Clearly communicating guidelines about telecommuting also is necessary.&nbsp; </p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s important that employers set expectations upfront about who can telecommute and how often they can do so in order to avoid misunderstandings that might arise during a project,&rdquo; Lee said.<br /><br />To help ensure a successful telecommuting program, Lee suggests employers consider the following questions:<br /></p><ul><li><strong>What IT jobs are best suited for telecommuting? </strong>Alternative work arrangements are most suitable for individuals whose jobs can be performed with relative autonomy. </li></ul><ul><li><strong>How frequently should IT employees be allowed to work remotely? </strong>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.</li></ul><ul><li><strong>How will you ensure effective communication between team members?&nbsp; </strong>Keeping a schedule of workers&rsquo; on-site availability and where and how they can be reached when off-site can keep work flowing smoothly.<br /></li></ul>

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