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Definition: telecommuting

Working at home and communicating with the office by phone and computer. At the beginning of the 21st century, more than 30 million Americans were telecommuting at least one day a week. The technology field is well suited for telecommuting because many, if not all, of the tasks performed by many computer professionals are at a screen. Also called "teleworking" and "e-working."

Nothing has brought telecommuting more to the forefront than the COVID-19 crisis. It is estimated that 60 million Americans have jobs that could be performed full time at home. The pandemic has made countless companies examine how much money they could save by not having to maintain office space.

Certainly not everyone likes working at home, but a lot of people do, especially if a long and expensive commute is the alternative. There is also no need to dress appropriately, and the ongoing joke is that one only needs to wear a shirt to have a video session. A Harvard study in early 2021 showed that only 18% of telecommuters want to go back to the office full time. The majority would like a hybrid schedule and be home two to three days a week, while 27% would like to work remotely all the time.

Telecommuting Goes Way Back
In the 1960s, information technology was one of the first industries to let employees telecommute. A small number of programmers worked at home one or more days a week; however, the only link to the office was the telephone. There were no modems attached to desktop computers because there were no desktop computers. A few programmers may have had the luxury of a terminal connected to a mainframe or minicomputer, but the majority wrote source code using pencil and paper. When back in the office, they created the input by "punching cards" and testing the program at a local datacenter. See virtual company, telecity, ROWE and hoteling.

A Lot Has Changed
Today, telecommuters can emulate "being there" with devices such as the Double from Double Robotics. See telepresence. (Image courtesy of Double Robotics, Inc., www.doublerobotics.com)