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article imageA growing army of telecommuting professionals in the US workforce

By Karen Graham     Sep 7, 2017 in Business
As competition in the U.S. job market grows tighter, many companies are casting their nets wider to find the talent they require when the local talent pool dries up. This has resulted in companies altering their recruiting practices to stay ahead.
Welcome to the world of remote workers. A recent report on the growth of telecommuting in the U.S. workforce suggests that more Americans will be working from home in the future. This growth trend is the result of the shrinking pool of talented workers in many regions brought on by fierce competition.
Instead of offering overly-gracious incentives to attract qualified employees, many companies are now revamping their hiring practices, in turn, expanding their pool by recruiting people who work from home, or at least, out of the office environment. In some cases, businesses have adopted a “fully remote” model where there is no central office.
French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian isla...
French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian island.
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The telecommuter workforce
FlexJobs, an online job search platform, partnered with Global Workplace Analytics, a workplace strategies consultancy to compile a special analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, creating The 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce.
Over 3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half of the time, up from 1.8 million in 2005, resulting in a 115 percent increase. The research found that most telecommuters were about 46-years of age or older, and had at least a bachelor’s degree, and on average, earned more than an in-office worker.
In more than half of the top U.S. metro areas, telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice. It has grown far faster than any other commute mode. Obviously, working remotely is not possible in some jobs, so it's unlikely that everyone will end up working from home or an Internet cafe anytime soon.
However, according to Brie Reynolds, a senior career specialist with FlexJobs, there is still the possibility of significant growth in telecommuting. “The people who crunched the numbers on this report found that 56 percent of U.S. employees have jobs that are telecommute-compatible—that’s up from 50 percent the last time this data was looked at (in 2010),” she said.
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Information technology is fueling telecommuting's growth
A company's Information Technology (IT) Department is a broad term that can cover many roles today. Where originally, the IT Department's time was spent maintaining equipment used by employees in the office, there are now fewer people and fewer pieces of equipment to manage.
This is because of the advent of secure remote desktop support apps. The apps allow IT workers to connect to computers outside the corporate network. IT pros can initiate over-the-Internet remote sessions via a secure Internet proxy.
It is a lot easier and quicker to use remote desktop support because sometimes the remote worker could be miles away or a telephone call about the problem may not be able to fully describe what is happening. Remote solutions allow the IT tech to access the root causes of issues, administer fixes, and even perform preventative maintenance.
A room full of servers
A room full of servers in 'the cloud'
File photo
Additionally, more “remote” IT jobs are opening up, and professional are responding favorably. This does not mean these IT workers will be in a company's building or maintaining servers and other equipment. Instead, they will be telecommuters available from a distance, providing knowledge and assistance.
Telecommuting has also fueled a rise in the number of companies providing IT services, making it a "specialty" field. These businesses range from IT "agencies" with a vast pool of IT professionals to assist those with problems, to software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers that operate remote servers and the support staff needed to maintain the equipment.
Using an SaaS business, a company doesn't have to invest in a lot of hardware to host the software, and this, in turn, allows buyers to outsource most of the IT responsibilities to IT agencies.
More about remote telecommuting, Analytics, Information technology, remote desktop, Technology
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