August 28, 2002
Strictly 'On-Site' Workers Now a Minority
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As Labor Day approaches and the country prepares to celebrate the advancements of the American worker over the last 120 years, a national study shows a new era in the American workplace, with only 17 percent of respondents untouched by work at a distance.
The national study, "When the Workplace is Many Places: The Extent and Nature of Off-Site Work Today," was commissioned by the American Business Collaboration, a coalition of major corporations.
The newly released report is the first nationally representative study to profile the extent and nature of off-site work from the 360-degree perspective of off-site workers, their colleagues, their managers and their family members, according to ABC.
Conducted from March 26 through April 21, 2002 by WFD Consulting and Harris Interactive(R), the study surveyed approximately 2000 full-time adult (18+) workers in companies of 500 or more employees, and a sample of family members of off-site workers, using on-line interviews.
"These data reflect a new reality in the American workplace," said Debbie Phillips, director of the ABC. "As corporate leaders, the ABC commissioned this study to provide the business community with information and data that can be used to maximize the productivity and satisfaction of the workforce."
The major findings show:
- The impact of off-site work is wide-reaching: only 17 percent of respondents are employees who work exclusively in a company office and don't experience some form of work at a distance.
- Companies benefit too. Off-site workers, on-site workers and managers all rate off-site workers as doing as well or better than on-site workers when it comes to employee productivity, commitment and job satisfaction.
- The experiences of off-site workers studied vary widely, from remote and regular tele-workers who are very satisfied with their arrangements to mobile workers who are less so, to customer site workers who are the least satisfied of any group.
- Training has a strong, positive impact on manager attitudes toward off-site workers, but only one in eight managers receives training in this area.
"Only a small portion of the workforce is untouched by the experience of working over distance," said Karen Noble, WFD Senior Consultant and Director of the Study. "The good news is that businesses can use these findings to change culture and practices which are based on the assumption that employees are physically working in the same location. By implementing policies, guidelines, supports, training and infrastructure changes, companies can tap into the high returns of an effectively managed distributed workforce."
The report also puts to rest several assumptions and myths about off-site and on-site workers:
- Contrary to fears that employees who work from home will not work as hard because they are out of a supervisor's line of sight, the study finds that off-site workers usually work more hours, are less stressed, and are at least as or more productive than on-site workers.
- While many managers assume it will be difficult to manage off-site workers, the study finds that most managers with experience and/or training show no preference for managing on-site workers over off-site workers and are satisfied with the performance of both.
- Concerning the notion that only certain jobs are conducive to off-site work, the study documents that off-site workers currently exist in a wide range of professions and industries.
Intended to help companies better manage today's distributed workforce, the report identifies factors that help or hinder employee effectiveness in working over a distance. "The top barrier to effective work-from-home is not technology as is commonly believed, but the main-site office culture that values face-time and operates in an 'out-of-sight, out of mind' mode," said Amy Richman, the study's lead researcher and Senior Consultant at WFD. "The greatest concern, voiced by on- and off-site employees alike, is deterioration both in communication and in a sense of connectedness to the company for those who work at a distance."
In addition, many off-site workers also report that technology is inadequate and one-third to one-half rate their technical support as "only fair or poor."
In the past 10 years the ABC has invested $136 million and impacted more than 135,000 children and elders through more than 1,500 innovative programs for backup care, elder care services, intergenerational programs and school-age programs.
Nine U.S. national and international corporations form the core of the ABC collaboration: Abbott Laboratories, Allstate Insurance Company, Deloitte & Touche, Exxon Mobil Corporation, GE, IBM Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Texas Instruments.
To learn more about the ABC and to request a copy of the study, please visit www.abcdependentcare.com, call 800-767-9863 or e-mail ABCinfo@WFD.com.