Telecommuting continues to rise

Given the ubiquity of PCs, workers' increasing demand for flexible hours and the headaches of wading through traffic, it's not surprising that recent studies reveal a growing number of employees telecommute at least part time. One study, conducted by InfoBeads, the market research arm of Ziff-Davis in San Francisco, tracked telecommuters who use PCs and found that the number grew 30 percent in the past year to almost 7 million.

Many firms find that telecommuting programs are key to luring high-level executives, including information technology employees. Thirty-five percent of 1,400 CIOs said they let their IT staff telecommute, according to a study by RHI Consulting, an IT personnel placement service in Menlo Park, California.

In various professional categories, the percentage of telecommuting executive and managerial-level workers grew the fastest, with a 45 percent increase, said InfoBeads.

Jack Nilles, a consultant at JALA International, a Los Angeles consulting firm, said attracting and retaining workers is the No. 1 reason his clients allow telecommuting.

Among Nilles' clients, turnover for telecommuters is 50 percent to 80 percent lower than for nontelecommuters, he said.

Dave Tremblay, InfoBeads' senior industry analyst, said that in the tight labor market, employers will continue to offer flexible schedules.

But having good IT support for telecommuters also counts, according to Ed Burgess, CIO at California's Department of Personnel Administration. Burgess said he knows of one co-worker, an attorney, who, after having been transferred to another state office, returned to Sacramento when his employer didn't support his telecommuting with remote network access.

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