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Who are the world’s telecommuters?


I’m not your typical telecommuter.

My fiance, however, fits the mould.

He’s 43, unmarried(for now), child-free (he’ll stay that way) and works remote for a big company.

I’m 43 and telework for a couple of small companies.

The big difference lies in our gender.

A 2012 survey by Lifesize revealed the majority of telecommuters are male and fall into the 35-54 age category:

remote worker infographic

See the full infographic here.

Even with the steady growth of telecommuting in the last two years, not much has changed in the remote worker demographic.

We want to assume more stay-at-home moms see the advantages of virtual work.

We’ve written the opportunity to work from home is ideal for retirees looking for supplemental income or individuals with disabilities.

The statistics, however, tell a different story.

The more things change …

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey show telecommuting rose 79 per cent between 2005 and 2012.

Remote workers now comprise 2.6 per cent of the American work force, or 3.2 million workers.

The “telecommuter” is difficult to define, as Alina Tugend writes in the New York Times, because it includes individuals who work from home full time and part time.

It could, she says, be expanded to include self-employed individuals.

She cites Jennifer Glass, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, whose research shows many managers and professionals consider telework as the time put in after the 40 hours employees have already spent in the office. These people check email, return calls and write reports from home, but in the evenings and weekends.

Until we come to a true definition of the telecommuter, however, self-reported surveys show the telecommuting demographic hasn’t changed.

It’s a man’s world

Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit Inc. released a survey of 566 individuals earlier this year, reporting that nearly three out of four full-time remote workers are male.

“Telework is not a perk, and it’s certainly not just for moms and Gen Y,” said Cali Williams Yost, CEO of Flex+Strategy Group in a news release.

“Rather, it’s an operational strategy. Think of it as anything less, and organizations ignore what has become a vital part of their business and the way their people actually work.”
The survey revealed:

✓ Three out for flex workers are men; women are more likely to work in open office spaces and cubicles
✓ 29 per cent of telecommuters don’t have children
✓ 36 per cent of men say they get most of their work done remotely, compared with 23 per cent of women

A 2013 Harris Interactive poll of 2,219 employees found 37 per cent of the men work remotely, compared to 31 per cent of the women.

Oddly, women are more likely to agree with positive statements about working from home:

✓ 94 per cent of women believe working from home provides flexibility; 87 per cent of men agree
✓ 88 per cent of women believe telework enables employees to balance work and family needs; 83 per cent of men agree
✓ 86 per cent of women view telecommuting as a significant job perk; 81 per cent of men agree
✓ 68 per cent of women agree working from home increases productivity and work output; 60 per cent of men agree

While the differences aren’t too significant, it’s a curious split in the genders, considering more men are taking advantage of the opportunity.

Your turn

Should more women embrace telecommuting as a career strategy?

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