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Telework controversy: Are 17% of teleworkers unabashed slackers?

CareerBuilder.com survey found that nearly two-thirds of telecommuters aren't putting in a full day

By Ann Bednarz on Mon, 09/26/11 - 2:13pm.

A recent report claims that 17% of telecommuters work less than one hour a day. That's bogus, say telework advocates who are taking to web sites, blogs and other social media to refute the findings.

The source of the controversy is CareerBuilder.com, whose survey says two-thirds of telecommuters are coming up short of a full day's work. When asked how much time they spend working on a typical full-time day, just 35% of telecommuters said they work 8 hours or more. Another 40% said they work 5-7 hours, 8% said 2-4 hours, and 17% said they work 1 hour or less. CareerBuilder.com identified the survey respondents as full-time employees who telecommute at least on some days.

The top distractions cited are: household chores (31%), TV (26%), pets (23%), errands (19%), Internet (18%), and children (15%).

Could there really be that many slackers in the world? And if so, how could they possibly be getting away with it?

PRODUCTIVITY MONITORS: Pay no attention to that widget recording your every move

CareerBuilder.com's survey results are at odds with many other studies on teleworking. Typically, teleworkers report spending more time working at home than they do in an office environment. Time that would have been spent commuting is often spent doing work instead.

Productivity climbs, teleworkers say: In a 2011 survey from Telework Exchange, 76% of employees polled said they accomplished more while teleworking than they would have in the office.

"Year over year, our internal surveys have shown just the opposite" of the CareerBuilder.com survey results, wrote Susan Rodgers, senior manager for workplace strategy at AT&T, in a forum on LinkedIn. "We've also been able to back up our survey results with concrete data, from our time reporting and other HR systems. Not only do our 15,000 telecommuters (who work from home one or more days every week) work the same and often longer hours when they work from home, they also have higher engagement scores, lower absentee rates, lower turnover rates, and the same or higher annual performance ratings, when compared to our non-telecommuting population."

Rodgers also noted that simply asking if someone telecommutes would yield all kinds of "yes" results. "For us, that would include: full-time at home (5 days a week), to part-time at home (1-4 days every week), to occasional (one day a month or less), to rare occurrences (e.g. for business continuity situations)...and everything in between," Rodgers wrote.

She's not the only skeptic.

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