The proliferation of wireless technologies and feature-rich Internet applications is making it easier for information technology (IT) professionals to work outside of the office. A new study by Robert Half Technology shows that telecommuting is becoming more commonplace among IT professionals. Nearly half (44 percent) of chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed said their companies' IT workforce is telecommuting at a rate that is the same or higher than five years ago; only 3 percent said IT staff work remotely less frequently today than five years ago (see table 1). Improved retention and morale, and increased productivity were cited as the greatest benefits among firms that allow telecommuting.
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. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis.
"Enhanced connectivity tools provide IT professionals greater flexibility and the option to work even when they are away from the office," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "Consequently, working remotely is more commonplace today and more acceptable."
Telecommuting Attitudes Explored
34 percent of CIOs whose companies allow telecommuting cited improved retention and morale through enhanced work/life balance as the greatest benefit. Increased productivity due to reduced commute time was cited by 28 percent of respondents (see table 2).
"For some, working from home on occasion can result in greater productivity because there are fewer interruptions than in the office," Lee said. "Many IT professionals also appreciate not having to commute every day given today's high gasoline prices."
Companies may need to balance the desire of staff to work remotely against the expectation of accessibility, however. Indeed, survey respondents indicated that telecommuting programs can have drawbacks. Nearly half (44 percent) of all CIOs surveyed felt that quality of work suffers due to diminished in-person contact with colleagues (see table 3A). Furthermore, nearly one in three (30 percent) CIOs surveyed felt that telecommuting employees are not as productive because they have less oversight (
"Telecommuting isn't a viable option for every type of employee in every scenario," Lee commented. "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."
Implementing Telecommuting Programs
While telecommuting can benefit employers and employees alike, it's important that companies have the appropriate infrastructure in place to facilitate staff working remotely. For example, nearly a third of CIOs (31 percent) surveyed felt that telecommuting employees generate too many security risks because they need to access elements such as corporate networks, systems and intellectual property off-site (see table 3C).
Clearly communicating guidelines about telecommuting also is necessary. Lee noted, "It's important that employers set expectations up front about who can telecommute and how often they can do so, in order to avoid misunderstandings that might arise during a project."
To help ensure a successful telecommuting program, Lee suggests employers consider the following questions: