This is the second post in VC Daily’s telecommuting series. Find the first post here.
Most people will ask the new person at work, “Where are you from?”, but in the future we may be asking them, “Where are you now?”
Telecommuting, the ability to work remotely and communicate through video conferencing, continues to grow in popularity at such a rate that it is predicted half the U.S. workforce will telecommute at least half the time by 2030.
You may assume that the ones behind this workplace transformation are Millennials, Gen Zers, or folks from Silicon Valley start-ups, the truth is more unexpected. The average telecommuter is actually a 49-year-old college graduate who earns $58,000 a year and works for a company with more than 100 employees. Less than 10% work in the IT industry, a few are stay-at-home parents, and men and women are represented evenly and earn similar wages.
Telecommuting may be a young technology, but the people who use it are the same people that work alongside you in your office today, the same people that have always made up the workforce.
Here at VC Daily, we think the answer to the question, “Who should telecommute?” should be, “Almost everyone.” Telecommuting is possible for an amazing number of workers in the U.S., and it’s gaining in popularity such that soon it won’t be a surprise to find out that your new colleague is not only from a different state, they’re from a different country.
Telecommuters Are Ordinary Americans
The 9 million Americans who currently telecommute to work at least half the time are drawn from a diverse range of industries. It’s estimated that more than half the total workforce currently hold jobs that could be completed remotely, a notion backed up by the most common fields of telework:
- Computing and math-related jobs – 8%
- Military occupations – 7%
- Art and design – 6%
- Media and sports – 6%
That list doesn’t include some obvious deskbound roles such as clerical and accounting jobs, or the human resources industry, which has commonly been outsourced over recent years.
The number of employers offering telecommuting to their workers is also expanding. In the five years from 2010 to 2015, the number of firms offering telework grew by 40%. That’s despite former Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalling the company’s large remote workforce in 2013, a move that was supposed to spell doom for telecommuting.
Instead, the telecommuting lifestyle has become so cherished that it’s more common than public transportation for getting to work in about half of the largest U.S. cities, and Harvard research conducted in 2016 found that the average U.S. employee would take an 8% pay cut to be able to work from home.
It’s clear that most of us would love to work remotely, and with all the tools available, we can. Technology is no longer a barrier to working where you’re most comfortable.
Who Is Telecommuting, and Who Should Telecommute
For all the talk about how Millennials are changing the way technology is used at work (and in everyday life), it is the Baby Boomers who have the highest percentage of telecommuters by generation.
This is a generation that are late-adopters to online communication. They didn’t grow up with Facebook in high school or the internet in elementary school. Yet, as we are working later in life, those approaching retirement are making use of video conferencing at work more often than their younger fellow employees.
That’s because telecommuting has never been so accessible. From the 1980s through to the mid-1990s, video conferencing equipment was the exclusive domain of large corporations, and quality cameras cost thousands of dollars (for more on this take a look at our history of video conferencing). Now, you can get a high definition webcam for less than $100, or a state-of-the-art model with 4K streaming and facial recognition software (see: our Logitech Brio review) for less than $200. Plus, every modern laptop and smartphone now comes equipped with built-in video calling devices and software, such as Apple’s FaceTime or Microsoft’s Skype.
At the office, workflow programs such as Slack and Skype for Business are purpose-built to cater for remote workers, with video calling, instant messaging, and live chat as standard.
There’s no technical reason why all employees in remote-friendly jobs can’t work from home all the time. All that’s needed is a cultural change–and there are good arguments for making that cultural change. The potential advantages a remote workforce offers should push even small businesses onto the telecommuting bandwagon.
An Unending Supply of Telecommuters
One big benefit to telecommuting is the way it eliminates location as an issue. A business in Denver, for instance, can capitalize on the desire for remote work in order to lure employees from the IT hotbed of the West Coast or the financial centers on the East Coast.
If a business is of the small-to-medium variety, it can use telecommuting as an advantage over larger corporations, or to attract experienced Baby Boomers who’ve made their mark and now favor lifestyle considerations. The dynamic may already be in play, as Denver is one of the most popular areas for telecommuting employees, with more than 5% of its population working remotely. Moreover, there are no relocation costs to be paid by the company, and no need for employees to abandon their social networks and start fresh.
If the move toward domestic telecommuting grows, there’s no reason why global telecommuting can’t become more widely practiced as well. It’s perfectly legal for U.S. companies to take on international workers, and vice-versa, and the tax considerations are less complicated than you might imagine. With an online posting on an internationally accessible job site, that same Denver business could now have access to an employment market of millions, or more.
So who should telecommute? Anyone whose job makes it possible. Telecommuting makes every person with the right skills, regardless of their age, gender, or location, a potential employee for any business.