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One-sixth of the world's employees now telecommute: survey

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The collapse of the traditional 9-to-5 cubicle workplace isn't an isolated phenomenon. It's happening everywhere, a new survey of 11,000 workers across the globe finds.

The collapse of the traditional 9-to-5 cubicle workplace isn't an isolated phenomenon -- it's happening everywhere. And it's especially strong in some of the world's developing economies. If you're in India, Indonesia, Mexico or Argentina, if you have a laptop, tablet or other device with an Internet connection, your workplace is wherever you want it to be. But if you're in Europe, you still need to show up at the office.

Telecommuting has become a global phenomenon. A new poll of more than 11,300 employees across 22 countries finds that one in six (17%) employees who can be connected online to their workplace report they ‘telecommute’ on a ‘frequent basis.’

The survey, conducted by Ipsos, a research company, for Reuters News finds that seven percent of employees in the survey say they ‘work every day from home which is remote or separate from their employers real office elsewhere’ while another 10% say they do so ‘on a very consistent and constant basis like evenings and weekends.’

The survey limits its base to corporate employees that work in informational or office settings, so that leaves out various types of work such as construction, public safety or agriculture. Nonetheless, the survey points to some interesting developments as many corners of the world become part of the information economy. The survey finds telecommuting is primarily taking place in emerging markets: those working in the Middle East and Africa (27%), Latin America (25%) and Asia-Pacific (24%) are considerably more likely than those in North America (9%) and Europe (9%) to telecommute ‘on a frequent basis.’

More specifically, employees in India (56%), Indonesia (34%), Mexico (30%), Argentina (29%), South Africa (28%) and Turkey (27%) are most likely to be pursuing this employment arrangement. On the other end, those in Hungary (3%), Germany (5%), Sweden (6%), France (7%), Italy (7%) and Canada (8%) are least like to telecommute ‘on a frequent basis.’

Not clear from the survey report is exactly why these developing economies are hotbeds of telework. It could be attributable to less of an infrastructure of office buildings. Robust support for telecommuting also has interesting implications for the economic growth and social mobility within these nations, since employees can take advantage of opportunities without the need to pull up roots and move closer to employment.

The survey also finds those respondents with a high level of education are most likely to telecommute on a frequent basis (25%) followed by those under the age of 35 (20%) and those with a high household income (20%). Men (19%) are more likely than women (16%) to telecommute frequently.

In addition, more than one-third (34%) of those connected employees agree they would be ‘very likely’ to take the option to telecommute on a full-time basis from their home or other location if their employer offered them the opportunity.

Two thirds (65%) respond that telecommuters are more productive because the flexibility allows them to work when they have the most focus and/or because having maximum control over the work environment and schedule leads to job satisfaction and happiness. The other third (35%) agree that telecommuters do not work as hard because there is less manager supervision and/or because of family and social distractions at home.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure