Telework on the upswing

New AT&T survey predicts high growth in two years.

New AT&T survey predicts high growth in two years

The results of a new AT&T survey show telework is gearing up for a growth spurt. The study, which is the basis for a AT&T white paper called “Remote Working in the Net-Centric Organization,” revealed that 80% of companies surveyed expect to have remote employees by 2006, up from 54% today. 

Also a headliner: By 2006, 32% of employers will provide teleworkers with equipment or other material support, up from 13% this year — a 26% jump that indicates firms are getting ready to invest in technology again.

The survey was conducted online by the Economist Intelligence unit — the business information arm of The Economist — and completed by 237 C-level executives primarily in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The executives represented companies in a variety of sectors, including business and IT services, technology and software, and financial services and manufacturing, with most reporting annual revenue of less than $500 million.

Many of telework’s drivers and obstacles are well known. But telework surveys often reveal (or confirm) changes in the market and subtle shifts in attitude. For drivers, 62% of respondents cited better network access from remote locations; 62% cited better communications facilities; and 48% cited the globalization of business operations. (Respondents could pick more than one driver.) However, 28% cited an increased numbers of partners and alliances, and only 15% cited pressure from staff, which runs counter to the notion that telework programs often begin at the grass-roots level.

For obstacles, 56% of respondents cited difficulty monitoring the output of remote workers. Forty-nine percent cited security concerns centered on remote working, and 41% said their company operates in intensively client-facing environment. However, the cost of telework was cited by 37%, not a low number, but lower than it’s been in the past, indicating either that companies have the money to spend on telework or are reallocating funds in order to stay competitive.    

AT&T itself is the ultimate telework posterchild. One-third of AT&T’s managers work remotely at least once a week, up four-fold in 10 years. More than 17% of AT&T’s managers work full time in remote offices, nearly double the number since 2001.

The company says its “network-based structure” (meaning it is organized around networks, not buildings) generated more than $150 million in what it deems “business benefit” in 2002 by increasing productivity, reducing real estate overhead, and improving employee retention and recruitment. The company also boasts how it helped the environment. In 2002, AT&T employees used telework to avoid more than 154 million commuting miles, which saved 7.4 million gallons of gasoline and more than 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the air.

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Remote Working in the Net-Centric Organization

AT&T.com

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