The rise of part-time telecommuting is being driven by high broadband penetration and management's increasing confidence in the practice, according to a new study by Forrester Research.
Forrester's study, "U.S. Telecommuting Forecast, 2009 To 2016," projects that employees who telecommute at least occasionally will account for 25% of the workforce by 2016, from 15.4% today. Employees who telecommute only very occasionally (less than once a week on average) will account for about half of these remote employees (12.4% of all adult workers).
Workers who telecommute between one and four days a week will account for 8.6% of the workforce. Full-time telecommuters will increase from 2.9% to 4.8% of all workers.
These workers are largely driving this trend themselves as they seek more flexibility, but the future employees who will split their time working from the office, the home and the road will put fresh demands on the corporate WAN.
In fact, recent advances in networking have enabled this shift in work styles, which will put new demands on the WAN.
Forrester cited the network's support of VoIP, unified communications, and improved security as all enabling the shift.
But even the best network engineers, who believe they have a WAN in place that can cover this rising tide of telecommuters, should prepare for unexpected challenges.
"Cover all the IT bases, including operations, security and performance management," warned Ted Schadler, the report's author and a Forrester vice president. "While collaboration and communications tools are the key applications for telecommuters, IT must also deal with provisioning, supporting, backing up, and helping business measure the contribution of remote workers. This will require information and knowledge management professionals to build a tiger team of IT professionals to deal with the infrastructure, security and performance management issues."
The increase in telecommuters is also likely to spur another area of development affecting the WAN: cloud computing. As more workers move off-site, Forrester found, the economics of the increasingly popular Software as a Service (SaaS) model get better.
"Cloud computing is a hosting and delivery model that works in a highly distributed company, particularly for collaboration apps, but also for any application employees regularly tap," Schadler wrote. "It will be easier to provision a remote worker over the Internet from a common service than from an on-premise installation. Everybody can tap the same cloud service, operated centrally, hosted regionally, and administered locally."