The proliferation of wireless technologies and feature-rich Internet applications is making it easier for information technology (IT) professionals to work outside of the office. A new study by Robert Half Technology shows that telecommuting is becoming more commonplace among IT professionals. More than half (58 per cent) of chief information officers (CIOs) surveyed said their companies' IT workforce is telecommuting at a rate that is the same or higher than five years ago; only 5 per cent said IT staff work remotely less frequently today than five years ago (see table 1). Increased productivity and improved retention and morale were cited as the greatest benefits among firms that allow telecommuting.
The poll includes responses from more than 270 CIOs from a stratified random sample of Canadian companies with 100 or more employees. It was conducted by an independent research firm and developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis.
"Enhanced connectivity tools provide IT professionals greater flexibility and the option to work even when they are away from the office," said Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology. "Consequently, working remotely is more commonplace today and more acceptable."
Of the CIOs whose companies allow telecommuting, 36 per cent cited increased productivity due to reduced commute time as the greatest benefit. Thirty-four per cent of respondents also cited improved retention and morale through enhanced work/life balance (see table 2).
"For some, working from home on occasion can result in greater productivity because there are fewer interruptions than in the office," Lee said. "Many IT professionals also appreciate not having to commute every day given today's high gasoline prices."
Companies may need to balance the desire of staff to work remotely against the expectation of accessibility, however. Indeed, survey respondents indicated that telecommuting programs can have drawbacks. More than a third (38 per cent) of all CIOs surveyed felt that quality of work suffers due to diminished in-person contact with colleagues (see table 3A). Furthermore, close to a quarter (21 per cent) of CIOs surveyed felt that telecommuting employees are not as productive because they have less oversight (see table 3B).
"Telecommuting isn't a viable option for every type of employee in every scenario," Lee commented. "Managers who need face-to-face interaction with staff, or individuals who meet frequently with clients, for example, may find that working from home hampers their ability to build strong business relationships."
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