Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New Line on TELECOMMUTING ; Working from Home. the Long-Held Fantasy: Pencil-Pushing While Still In

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New Line on TELECOMMUTING ; Working from Home. the Long-Held Fantasy: Pencil-Pushing While Still In

Article excerpt

Telecommuting, one of the biggest work trends of the decade, has helped reshape the way many Americans do their jobs.

Anywhere from 9 million to 16 million people employed with an "outside company" work from home at least one day a week. And the numbers will likely increase as a new wave of technology infiltrates the home and workers demand more flexibility.

Yet the notion that everyone will be working from home in blue jeans and bunny slippers is about as likely as corporate America adopting a four-day work week. Rather, telecommuting points to how flexible work is becoming. Increasingly, the office will be just one of many places from which people will be able to work. "In the next five years the number of telecommuters may get up to 15 million or 20 million, but the key is that number will be much more fluid," says Gil Gordon, a telecommuting consultant in Monmouth Junction, N.J. "So rather than saying, either you're a telecommuter or you're not, the individual will be able to say, 'Based on what I have to do today, here is the best place for me to work.' "

The number of telecommuters has jumped in the past decade, as managers become more comfortable with people working without supervision and companies see such benefits as lower turnover, higher productivity, and reduced real estate costs.

At AT&T Corp., 24 percent of its 75,000 managers worldwide work from home at least once a week - up from 8 percent in 1993. Those who work from home tend to put in at least an hour more a day than those in the office, says company spokesman Burke Stinson.

At Minneapolis-based Ceridian Employer Services, 10 percent (roughly 300) of its fulltime employees telecommute fulltime - a number that has doubled in the past two years. Most are required to be in the office just one day a week for meetings.

Bob Kudla, director of marketing and business development for Ceridian Small Business Solutions, has been working from his home in Laguna Niguel, Calif., since 1994.

"It's maximum flexibility," says Mr. Kudla, which is key, since most of his clients (as well as the people he manages) are in other parts of the country.

"Nobody has to wait until I get into the office," says Kudla, who's usually at his desk in his master bedroom no later than 6:30 a.m. He plows through phone calls, eats lunch at his desk, and uses his lunch break to put in a 45-minute workout at a nearby gym. He usually spends about half of his time at home, and the other half on the road, meeting clients and checking in with his manager in Minneapolis.

He contends that he's more productive at home as well as more accessible to clients and colleagues - primarily because he's not pulled into unnecessary meetings. "If people want me in a meeting they have to really need me," he says, because of the logistics involved. …

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