Practical Telecommuting Technologies

In today's increasingly information-based economy, telecommuters make up a fast-growing and surprisingly diverse segment of the workforce. The one thing they all have in common is that they choose to spend more time and energy on work and less of it traveling to work.

The telecommuting phenomenon took hold during the 1990s, with the number of Americans working at home three or more days a week jumping to 28 million by the end of 2001 according to the International Telework Association and Council (ITAC). This same group predicts that almost one-third of the workforce some 50 million workers will telecommute either full- or part-time by 2006.

Telecommuting continues to grow in popularity because it simply makes sense to the employer as much as to the employee. The advantages to workers of telecommuting are obvious: more flexibility and less time wasted on the road. Less obvious, but equally compelling, are the advantages to employers: lower overhead costs, higher productivity, access to a broader pool of talented workers, and greater employee satisfaction. Telecommuting is even good for the environment, helping to relieve traffic congestion in crowded metropolitan areas.

Also driving the growth of telecommuting is the increasingly easy communication between office and home, notably advances in voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies and the availability of digital PBX-IP gateways. Today's telecommuters can link into the company's network and private branch exchange (PBX), enjoying the same Web and email access and phone functionality as office workers. Moreover, the difference between communicating with on-site and off-site workers can be invisible to customers and other callers making it even easier to view work as an activity, not a location.

This paper explores both the whys and hows of telecommuting, including telecommunications options and key requirements for setting up a home office that meets the needs of everyone concerned: the employee, the employer, and their customers.

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