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Teleworkin' It
These Are Not the Telecommuters You Are Looking For

Telecommuting may be the cutting-edge of the work world, but unlike most cutting-edge developments this one is being driven by the older generation. In Forbes, Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox have an excellent piece on the future of telecommuting. One bit that jumps out is that telecommuting is not as youthful an enterprise as many think:

The typical teleworker is a 49-year-old, college-educated, salaried, non-union employee in a management or professional role, earning $58,000 a year at a company with more than 100 employees.

This suggests that, as more workers enter their 50s, the telework population will expand further.  These numbers will continue to be buttressed by both economic and social factors. The shift towards outsourcing by companies seems unlikely to slow in the years ahead, with more work going to subcontractors who can often work at home. At the same time more boomers, particularly those with skills and connections, will continue to move to places that offer more attractive lifestyles — a process that Joel Garreau has labeled“the Santa Fe-ization of the world,” which he links to people with enough money to have choices.

They go on to mention that workers with more modest budgets will also increasingly telework, but in cheaper or more exotic locations. This will give a boost to the local economies in this smaller areas by bringing with it the accessories of a teleworking class (wired cafes for example). Read the whole thing.

It is crucial that we find ways to extend this kind of flexibility to younger workers as well. Since the recession, older workers have captured more income gains than younger ones and most job growth has been for older workers. The concentration of teleworking among Boomers and Gen X is just another example of how they monopolizing post-recession benefits. It’s good that more older Americans are teleworking, but more younger Americans should too. Ultimately we need to find ways to not only allow boomers to telework in rich cities but also millennials to work in places with high quality of life—even abroad.

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  • Jim__L

    One problem with this approach is that of the intergenerational transfer of knowledge.

    Teleworkers frequently try to get out of the office so as not to be interrupted by coworkers with questions. The problem is, since training budgets (like large-scale R&D) have largely disappeared from American corporations, these informal sessions are the only way younger workers now get face time to learn their trade.

    VM is 100% correct — if this is the future of telework, the future for America looks decidedly less bright.

  • free_agent

    I suspect it depends greatly on the distribution of types of work. The knowledge worker can telework far more easily than the in-person service worker.

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