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What could be best for a first post than celebrating this 50th week of telecommuting from Austria? A few days ago I was still in Paris, working from the vast open-space of the PR agency I work in. Today, I’m sitting at another desk, 1.000km away from Paris, in a small and typical Austrian village… I took my laptop with me, transferred my office line to my SkypeOut account and my home Wifi spot just allows me to stay connected to the rest of the world! Was will man mehr?

And tomorrow?

macforrestI guess this is the way most of us will work by 2015 (particularly due to the growing environmental concerns). As a matter of facts, Gartner, in its study entitled “Future Worker 2015: Extreme Individualization”, drew a very attractive portrait of what the environment of the Future Worker 2015 will look like: “long-distance travel is common, personal computers and cell phones are ubiquitous, telework is routine, and business partners are as likely to be on different continents as in different cities”.

Influencing factors

Most of the teleworking groups or associations around the world, with incisive knowledge of how teleworking is developing within their area, highlight a wide chasm between the enthusiasm of the workforce for teleworking and the degree to which management will allow them to telework. Some of the major dominant market accelerators identified by Gartner’s analysts which will influence the growth of teleworking worldwide include:

  • The increasing availability of high-bandwidth access to homes in the more developed industrial nations will drive the spread of new teleworking programs and the extension of teleworking programs.
  • Improvements in cellular data coverage and speed.
  • Increasing pressure, in terms of national and regional legislation, for businesses to offer the option of flexible working.
  • Increasing pressure from employees for flexible working options to improve their effectiveness and work-life balance. Employees will put increasing pressure on companies to work at least one day a week from home.
  • Increasing environmental pressure, both globally and nationally, to reduce congestion and pollution caused by mass commutes, coupled with the inability of transportation infrastructure to keep pace with the urban population.

Limits and (internal) threats to the development of telecommuting

When I read this forecast scenario, I’m just thinking that we’re only a few steps away from making this a reality for more and more workers; all the technology tools we need are mostly available, but what is still missing is the employer/employee confidence. The reluctance of management to move from a time-based to objective-based approach, where the individual has greater freedom but also greater responsibility for achieving set objectives, is one of the major inhibitor we’re still facing. Although the objective-based system requires greater trust between the management and teleworking staff, it can also lead to improved productivity, as the weight of personal responsibility tends to focus the mind on work.

Some potential market inhibitors to teleworking worldwide include:

  • The patchy availability of broadband access as a faster and more flexible alternative to traditional dial-up remote access, which, though not a universal inhibitor, will be an issue for those teleworkers that expect to operate complex applications at network speeds while working from home.
  • The inability of national and international carriers to finance the upgrade of existing communications infrastructure to a level that will realistically support teleworking.
  • The lack of available corporate budget for remote access equipment and support.
  • A lack of commitment from national governments and wider regional organizations to improve the working conditions of employees and to tackle issues of pollution and congestion. As there is nothing as enticing to businesses as a government-funded or subsidized scheme, the lack of such incentives encourages reluctant managers to shelve teleworking initiatives and ignore the petitions of their staff.

In September and October 2008, an outline survey of 757 individuals was carried out for Gartner regarding the presence of a remote workforce and the provision of communications solutions to remote workers. A total of 124 respondents (16.1%) reported there are no remote workers whatsoever in their organizations. The reasons for this vary (see Figure 3), but the main ones are a lack of business requirement and the need to do business face-to-face.

Many barriers continue to impede the growth of the remote workforce (see Figure 6). Only 11% of the respondents claimed that nothing prevents them from extending this mode of work to more staff. The belief that technology cannot yet replace face-to-face collaboration is now the most important driver, up from 22% last year to 33%. This clearly signals that the benefits of rich-media communications (particularly video and collaboration tools) are not yet seen as sufficient to allow staff to achieve the same level of interaction remotely as they can in person. Technology vendors therefore have work to do in order to improve perceptions in this area.


As for client satisfaction, 2008 and 2007 have probably been the best two years achieved with my clients’ accounts in our long lasting collaborations. Relate it or not to the fact that I’m teleworking, results are here. And the best of it: when I’m back to the hectic ambiance of Paris, I just feel I’ve taken a week holiday :) There’s no better “break” than two days of telecommuting.

For those of you who want to know more about teleworking and who can read French, Cyril SLUCKI published a very interesting eBook entitled Telework: the keys to success, available for free at

And just to conclude, for the moment, on this subject, I will quote Jean Cocteau who wrote in Le Potomak : « Il n’y a pas de précurseurs ; il n’existe que des retardataires » (“there are no precursors; but only latecomers”).