This article notes that the growth in telecommuting has proven to be slower and less revolutionary than expected. According to one expert quoted here, “[Telecommuting] has become an adjunct to, not a replacement for, the traditional office … It’s morphed into multiple work situations.” Among the 12.2 million telecommuters employed by US business this year, some work from home, some work from the road – hotel, Starbucks, client site – and a growing number do both.
When push comes to shove, however, economic and cultural factors appear to trump the enabling technology that allows unfettered telecommuting. The tight economy of the last few years has caused companies to cut back on employee inducements and has caused workers to fear that if they are out of sight they’ll be the first ones fired. It has also forced managers to fall back on what they know best, namely on-site managing. The revised forecasts on the annual growth rate for telecommuting have fallen from 5 percent to 2 percent through 2008.
The bedrock arguments in favor of telecommuting remain, however, and the office, with its interruptions and water cooler schmoozing, can be a terrible place to get work done. The author still sees telecommuting as a coming trend, just one that is slower to arrive. A quickening economy could change all that.