• United States
Executive Editor

Telework numbers, gripes and digs

Nov 22, 20055 mins
ComputersRemote Work

* IDC profiles today's U.S. telecommuter

Editor’s note: Beginning Dec. 6, you will start receiving a new newsletter, Branch Office Best Practices, in place of Telework Beat. The newsletter will focus on how to best manage branch and remote offices, whether they house 1 employee or 1,000. Experts from Nemertes Research will help you assess the best technology and tactics for keeping your branch offices running as smoothly as if they were under your roof.

The U.S. telecommuting population is a diverse group, scattered across the country doing different jobs for different companies. But we share certain characteristics. Most of us work alone in our home, for one.

In a recent survey of 758 U.S. households, research firm IDC found that in 85% of home-office households there’s just one telecommuter.

On the other hand, telecommuters are fairly divided in the amount of time spent working at home, according to IDC’s telecommuter profile. About 35% spend 3 to 5 days per month at home, 14% spend 1 to 2 weeks per month at home, 26% work from home 3 to 4 weeks per month, and 24% work from home fulltime.

Equally diverse are the industries telecommuters work in and the jobs we perform. The largest share of telecommuters in the IDC survey work in healthcare (11%). Other industries include professional, scientific and technical services (10%), communication (9%), manufacturing (9%) and educational services (8%).

“Telecommuting is not industry specific, but rather is associated with the type of work that lends itself to being engaged in away from the corporate environment. Nearly one in four telecommuters works in sales,” according to the IDC report. Other popular roles include knowledge worker (21%), general management (17%) and general customer service (12%).

IDC’s research paints a picture of a healthy, growing community of teleworkers. Today there are 8.9 million telecommuter households, and IDC expects to see 250,000 added in each of the next four years.

But if you believe everything you read, not all home office workers want to remain homebound. Putting scientific research aside for a minute, consider some of the preliminary submissions in a contest is running for home workers who want to escape to an offsite office location. matches professionals, small businesses and start-ups with available short-term, ready-to-use office space. In its contest, the firm is asking participants to cite their Top 10 reasons for wanting to move their work life outside the home and into a real office. The winner of the contest — which ends on Feb. 28 — gets 12 months of free rent at qualifying U.S. office spaces listed with

“The responses that we have been receiving confirm the research that shows that a home office is often not the most ideal work space solution,” said Jeffrey Landers, president of

Here are a few of the gripes home-based workers have shared so far:

“The kids steal my pens and replace them with crayons.”

“My friends think that working at home means I never miss ‘Oprah.’ “

“It’s difficult to build client trust while wearing house slippers.”

Silly, but amusing.

On another tangent, let’s talk furniture. For those telecommuters who are happy working from home but would like to spruce up their digs, the Star-Telegram newspaper of the Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas, area recently published a story about environmentally friendly furniture alternatives for home-based workers.

It turns out there are a handful of eco-friendly furniture makers, including one in my neck of the woods. Baltix is a Long Lake, Minn., company that makes desks, tables, chairs, bookshelves and file cabinets out of sustainable and recycled materials such as wheat straw, sunflower hulls, and recycled plastics and aluminum. It even makes a tabletop out of shredded paper money that it gets from the U.S. Treasury and works into a smooth, solid-surface material.

The Star-Telegram story also mentions ecowork, a North Bonnewille, Wash., company that makes furniture from recycled materials and sustainable wood sources.

So how are these three seemingly random telework items related? In my mind, IDC’s research,’s contest and the Star-Telegram’s story show how mainstream telework is becoming. As the population of home-based workers grows, so do the bevy of technologies and tools available to the teleworking crowd.

Individuals and businesses alike are in the market for everything from network gear that makes working from home easy and secure, to communications tools that allow end users to access voice and e-mail from anywhere, using any device. Not to mention office furniture.

Meanwhile, as the number of telework sites grows, so too do the numbers of remote and branch offices. Looking ahead, Network World plans to refocus this newsletter to address not just the telework crowd but the broader world of remote and branch offices. Next week is the last telework-centric newsletter from me. Beginning Dec. 6, watch for a new emphasis on trends and technologies related to remote and branch offices. And let us know what you think.