CIOs Skeptical About IT Telecommuting

In a recent survey, nearly half of CIOs say they feel telecommuting lowers their employees' quality of work.

The proliferation of wireless technology has made it easier for employees across countless specialties to work from home or other remote locations.

Workers who are able to take advantage of these opportunities fairly consistently report greater efficiency without in-office distractions, a better work-life balance and even more satisfaction from their jobs. Yet, telecommuting uptake rates have long been held back by employers concerns over lost productivity, security risks and a discomfort over not being able to keep immediate tabs on their workforce.

Yet among IT professionals, telecommuting is more commonplace than ever. Nearly half (44 percent) of CIOs reported that their companies IT workforce telecommutes at a rate that is the same or higher than it was five years ago, according to a study released by Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm in Menlo Park, Calif.

Only three percent of the 1,400 responding CIOs said that their IT staff work remotely less frequently today than five years ago.

Improved job satisfaction, increased morale and better productivity were cited as the greatest benefits among firms that allowed telecommuting. Over one-third (34 percent) of the CIOs whose companies allowed telecommuting cited improved retention and morale among IT staff due to a better work-life balance as the greatest benefit. Increased productivity due to a reduction in time spent commuting was cited by 28 percent of respondents.

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"Technology employees are probably leaders in the telecommuting areas. If you look at whats required and the connectivity tools, or which individuals work on projects that dont require a lot of day-to-day collaboration, IT staff are more often than not early adopters of telecommuting," said Lee.

Companies that are recruiting for talent on a tight playing field are increasingly adopting telecommuting practices to attract a wider array of recruits.

"Its a recruitment tool, its a retention tool; theres no doubt about it. The vast majority of people like having it as an option. Its part of overall business strategies to, because it proves to shareholders and investors that they can continue with their business should a disaster occur," said Lee.

Among IT and other professionals, the ability to telecommute occasionally or even frequently is considered a huge job perk, and something that can make one place of employment seem to be a better choice than another.

"Job seekers eyes light up if you mention telecommuting. If there is potential to do so once a week, even better. Its of interest to a range of people, from those in major metropolitan areas with long commutes to those with child- or eldercare issues. Its a very big quality of life perk," said Lee.

However, telecommuting programs were not without their flaws. Nearly half (44 percent) of responding CIOs felt that the quality of work suffers due to diminished in-person contact with colleagues. Nearly one-third (30 percent) said that telecommuting employees were not as productive because they had less supervision.

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"We dont hear a lot of complaints, but if we do, its one of those three. People arent so concerned about it that its preventing them from telecommuting. Theres so much collaborative software out there, they can be working on something at the same time as someone else," said Lee.

"On the flipside, however, there are those who dont want it because they say they miss interaction with their coworkers."

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