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Yahoos Be Damned! Telework Takes Off in America

Nearly one out of every ten Americans works from home at least once a week, according to a new Census Bureau report released this week. That’s 13.4 million people cutting out their commutes and maybe even working more effectively. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Some research suggests allowing people to work from home can raise productivity. For instance, a study by academics at Stanford University and Beijing University found Chinese call-center workers who stayed home took fewer breaks and worked more efficiently. Allowing employees to work from home can also lower a company’s costs—especially for real estate, given the reduced need for office space.

At the very least working from home makes Americans a little happier. A 2008 study by Cisco Systems Inc. found employees who could work remotely experienced an increase in their quality of life. One possible reason: Home working reduces commuting. Census researchers said Tuesday that over 8% of U.S. employees who don’t work from home traveled an hour or longer to get to work in 2011—the definition of a “long commute.”

The 2010 Census numbers reflect an emerging trend. The number of regular US telecommuters is up 45 percent from 1997, and technologies like Skype are making remote work ever easier.

Employees value flexible schedules and ability to work from home almost as much as they value high salaries. Yes, in some cases, telework can be abused, as Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer argues is the case at Yahoo. Companies should consider the Goldilocks approach: not so much remote work that workers feel alienated from one another and lose accountability, but not so little that firms and their employees can’t take advantage of the time and monetary savings of telework.

It’s full speed ahead for American teleworkers, and that’s good news for everyone.

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