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When the polar vortex reared its ugly head, businesses fought back by having their employees work from the warmth and safety of their homes. Bad weather interrupted travel and forced offices to close, but remote working options helped companies to avoid losses in productivity. Both for emergency situations and for more regular arrangements, telecommuting is on the rise in the United States. This trend will affect IT professionals in two ways: It will offer more work options, including those in information technology companies, and it will create additional IT career opportunities as businesses will need IT staff to manage their telecommuting tools.
Telecommuting offers attractive options for employees and businesses
Remote and virtual working arrangements are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the tech industry, Meghan Biro, CEO of TalentCulture, wrote for Forbes magazine. Although some high-profile businesses such as Yahoo and Apple have restricted telecommuting as part of their culture strategies, information technology companies that rely on specialized skill sets are particularly likely to offer telecommuting options as a way to attract talent. Biro noted that remote arrangements facilitate round-the-clock schedules, which is a big plus for companies that need rapid responses to issues and for employees who perform best during non-standard working hours.
Telecommuting cuts commuting time and expenses. As an excellent option for employees who don't want to relocate, it expands the potential talent pool for companies and broadens IT job possibilities for searchers. The converse is also true: Virtual work options make it possible for people who frequently move, such as military spouses, to keep working at the same job, Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, explained in a Huffington Post article. This enables companies to keep high-performance employees who they might otherwise lose to life changes. Telecommuting choices can be a part of strategic talent management.
Parents and IT consulting professionals also benefit from options to work from home. Employees can work virtually at home when their children are sick or out of school, reducing the amount of personal or family medical time they use up. IT consultants can more easily work for multiple companies, even across the country, by completing work outside of the office.
For businesses, the potential benefits of telecommuting programs extend beyond attracting and retaining talent. Studies from Stanford University and the University of Minnesota found that telecommuters were 13 percent more productive than in-office workers, Fell noted. Having remote workers can also decrease operating costs, the source said. For example, expanding companies can hire more workers without investing in a larger office if part of their staff works from home.
Remote working tools may increase need for IT staffing
Depending on the business's needs, implementing a telecommuting policy may require infrastructure planning and IT network services. Successful virtual workplaces facilitate collaboration and communication through well-planned tools like intranet, internal email, social networks and video conferencing, HR Technology expert Jessica Miller-Merrell wrote for The Huffington Post.
With 63 million telecommuters expected by 2016, according to Forrester research, businesses will need IT professionals to coordinate broadband, secure VPN, work laptops and other devices. The increasing prevalence of telecommuting is contributing to the expansion of the IT industry overall. Gartner analysts expect that overall IT spending will increase 3.1 percent in 2014, with telecommunications services (the largest sector of IT spending) increasing by 1.2 percent.
Where to find IT careers with telecommuting options
Fell remarked that options to work remotely are growing in a number of key sectors, including information technology. Other industries include healthcare, non-profits, education, government and finance—which all have important IT components. FlexJob's list of 100 top companies for telecommuting includes Dell, CyberCoders, Computer Sciences Corporation, TEKsystems, VMware and Mozilla. For those looking to take advantage of telecommuting options or help set them up, businesses like these are a great place to start.