Mixed messages of telework’s future

Nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce — 44 million people — is expected to work from home this year, an increase of four per cent from 2003, according to a new report from In-Stat/MDR.

If the numbers seem high, it’s because In-Stat counts as a “telecommuter” (the term it prefers) anyone who works from home regularly, including home-based entrepreneurs, small-business people and employees who work at home after-hours at least two nights a week.

The report, “Business Broadband@Home, High-speed Internet and the At-home Worker in the U.S.,” counts 12 million employees as full-time teleworkers, a segment it expects will increase moderately to reach 14 million by 2008.

Of the 44 million teleworkers in the U.S., 41 million access the Internet. By 2008, In-Stat predicts 50 million teleworkers, 49 million of whom will access the Internet.

In-Stat expects the growth of Internet-accessing teleworkers to peak this year at seven per cent and will continue to grow but at a declining rate. Large companies, which employ 33 per cent of teleworkers today, can expect their teleworker ranks to decline slightly to 32 per cent by 2008.

Small and home offices (SOHO) and small businesses account for 53 per cent of Internet-accessing teleworkers in 2004, a 10 per cent increase from 2003. This group is expected to make up the largest portion of employment in the SOHO business market, about 58 per cent in 2004, increasing to 67 per cent by 2008.

The report emphasizes how telework affects broadband adoption. On average 70 per cent prefer cable over DSL. By year-end, most teleworkers who need it will subscribe to a broadband service, so business-related residential broadband growth will level off.

DSL placed a distant second to cable for business telecommuters. Slow rollout, limited availability — coupled with better price/performance and triple-play offerings from cable providers — suggests growth of DSL adoption for teleworkers will slow to two per cent by 2008.

To compile the report, In-Stat relied on market demographics, personal interviews, Web surveys and data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Commerce and FCC.

In a recently-released report, Sage Research Inc. quizzed 104 IT decision-makers in companies with more than 100 employees about telework. The “Sage Market Pulse” report found marked increases in telework for this year and next. The number of respondents that reported half to three-quarters of their workers telework was 14 per cent this year, and expected to rise to 23 per cent next year.

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