Annual survey helps debunk telework myths

Last week the International Telework Association and Council released the results of its annual survey. While it’s no surprise the number of teleworkers is up significantly – one-fifth of U.S. employees work away from the main office in one way or another – the report contains some welcome surprises and debunks some misconceptions that could encourage more to give it a try.

But first, the highlights:

Of the 28 million people who work away from the office, 24.1 per cent work on the road; 21.7 per cent work from home; 7.5 percent work at telework centres; and 4.2 percent work at satellite offices. Note that nearly half (42.4 per cent) work in more than one of these locations.

The typical teleworker lives in the northeast or western region. He is a college-educated white male between the ages of 35 and 44, married and earning at least US$40,000 per year. Most are professionals, working in IT, real estate or enterprise management.

Two-thirds of teleworkers surveyed expressed increased job satisfaction. Eighty per cent feel a greater commitment to their employer; many say they have no plans to look for another job. Seventy-five per cent of home workers reported a quantifiable increase in productivity and work quality.

14.46 million people want to telework, but don’t either because they believe their jobs aren’t suitable or their bosses won’t let them.

The research also reveals how teleworkers and non-teleworkers (who take work home on occasion) view how working at home affects their work-family balance. Respondents were asked whether they agreed with several work at home myths:

– If you work at home you’ll work longer hours.

– Demands of your personal life will take time away from work.

– Working at home makes it difficult to relax when you’re not working.

– Working at home interferes with other activities in your personal life.

– Your friends and family will balk at the amount of time you spend working at home.

Overall, the research shows attitudes towards these statements to be evenly split among teleworkers and non-teleworkers alike, or disagreed with altogether.

For instance, 22.8 per cent of teleworkers strongly disagree that working at home will increase the number of hours worked, but 30.2 per cent strongly agree that it will. Yet among non-teleworkers, 25.8 per cent strongly disagree, and 24.7 per cent strongly agree.

Interestingly, while teleworkers admitted they work longer hours than non-teleworkers, they also said their jobs interfere less with their personal lives. When asked whether demands on their personal lives take time away from work, 35.4 per cent of teleworkers strongly disagree, but only 7.4 per cent strongly agree. Of non-teleworkers, 41.4 per cent strongly disagree and only 9.1 per cent strongly agree.

Anyone who works at home – whether full time or an evening a week – is dealing with work-family conflict. The point is: it gets easier with practice. When I first started teleworking full time for Network World just over a year ago, I worked too much and struggled to set boundaries.

Then over time, I discovered the secret that makes telework just the coolest thing: To steal the “off-hours” – early mornings, the hours between dinner and prime-time TV, for instance, after the kids go to bed or settle down with homework – then pay myself back a few precious “on hours” during the week, maybe for a walk in the woods or a Friday afternoon movie. Now that’s work-life balance.

To get an executive summary or full copy of the 92-page report, call ITAC at 202-547-6157, or send an e-mail request to For more information on ITAC head to