Office Workers Fear Backlash of Telecommuting, but See Trend Increasing, Study Finds

August 11, 2008 – Grand Rapids, MI – In an interesting contradiction, a majority of office workers fear that telecommuting can hurt their career prospects, yet just over half believe that it is beneficial for a company to endorse telecommuting. These results are the first in a four-part Workplace Index Survey of 700 white-collar workers on the nature of work commissioned by Steelcase, a global office environments manufacturer.

Almost half of the respondents’ companies allow them to telecommute, but less than a third take advantage, largely due to perceptions that working away from home will hinder their chances at a promotion due to the lack of contact with the employer (64 percent).
Additionally, most office workers feel that their companies prefer them in the office to control their work environment (72 percent) and prevent a decline in productivity (71 percent).

Despite the hesitance of most office workers to telecommute, most have favorable impressions of working outside the office. Eighty percent of respondents believe that current technology allows them to remain just as connected to the office, while half feel that a different environment actually makes them more productive.

“The lines between work and life are continuing to blur and at an increasing pace,” said Chris Congdon, Manager, Corporate Marketing, of Steelcase, “Office workers view telecommuting as a way to be successful in both life and work. Employees appreciate companies that allow them to strike a balance, and if done well, the company can reap the rewards as well.”

And workers agree. Whereas most respondents believe their company prefers them in the office, over 50 percent feel that companies promoting telecommuting will be more successful than companies that do not endorse it. Over 80 percent of respondents believe that working away from the office increases morale for employees and reduces staff turnover.

Of those who do telecommute, an overwhelming 98 percent do so from the comfort of their home. Over half stay in touch by email, while about a third of telecommuters communicate via the telephone.

Additional survey findings include:

  • 80 percent of respondents believe telecommuting is a trend that will continue to grow over the next five years.
  • 32 percent of respondents telecommute.
  • 46 percent of respondents’ companies allow them to telecommute.
  • 62 percent of respondents believe companies prefer them in the office to prevent a lack of communication; 41 percent believe it is because of the cost of the technology involved.
  • 61 percent of telecommuters do so to balance their family and work life, and 37 percent do so to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Steelcase Workplace Index Surveys address pertinent issues in today’s work environment. This continual workforce feedback is essential to the development of Steelcase’s knowledge of the workplace and to the company’s product development and corporate ventures aimed to increase worker effectiveness and productivity.

Results of additional parts in the Nature of Work series examine social networking, naps in the office and romance at work. Past surveys have covered office gossip, exercise on the job and workplace interaction between generations. Further information on workplace issues is available in the knowledge center on Steelcase’s Web site

About Steelcase Inc.
Steelcase, the global leader in the office furniture industry, helps people have a better work experience by providing products, services and insights into the ways people work. The company designs and manufactures architecture, furniture and technology products. Founded in 1912 and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steelcase (NYSE:SCS) serves customers through a network of over 600 independent dealers and approximately 13,000 employees worldwide. Fiscal 2008 revenue was $3.4 billion.

Jeanine Holquist