The Future Of Working From Home

Does your company let you work from wherever you want? If it doesn’t, it may be watching as progress passes it by. The next generation of working doesn’t require a desk.

Sometimes it seems that a new study comes out every day touting the benefits of working remotely—it makes you more productive, happier, potentially even more creative. Companies are catching on, building offices designed for employees to work remotely, with better systems for communicating with telecommuters (i.e. giant TV screens), fewer desks, flexible seating arrangements, and less floor space overall.

It’s a trend that’s good for workers’ psyches and the environment—more people working from home means fewer car trips, and fewer people in the office allows companies to scale down to smaller spaces that use fewer resources. And if you don’t like it, well, too bad—a new survey from Citrix Systems found that the movement is speeding up.

Citrix surveyed 1,900 "senior IT decision-makers" in 19 countries, asking about future trends in workspaces and telecommuting. Among the highlights:

  • The IT executives surveyed believe that by 2020 there will be seven desks for every 10 office workers, reflecting the growing number of telecommuters.
  • That ratio will be even lower—six desks for every 10 workers—in telecommuting-friendly countries like the U.S., the U.K., Singapore, and the Netherlands. It will be higher in cultures that place a high value on face-time, like Germany, South Korea, and Japan. But even those countries are adjusting. After the Fukushima disaster, "organizations realized that they could empower their employees to work from home. They began to learn that work can be done anywhere," says Kim DeCarlis, VP of corporate marketing at Citrix.
  • Approximately 29% of people in 2020 will work remotely—the majority from home, project sites, and customer/partner premises. Coffee shops, airports, and hotels will also be used while in transit, much as they are today.
  • 24% of companies have adopted mobile work styles ("The trend towards fewer office-based employees … who use multiple computing devices to access corporate apps, data, and services from a range of locations outside of the traditional office," according to Citrix). That number will balloon to 83% by mid 2014.
  • 96% of organizations implementing mobile work styles are redesigning their workplaces to be more collaborative and flexible.
  • 83% of companies plan to allow employees to bring their own digital devices to and from work instead of relying on desktops, with most or all of the costs being covered by the companies themselves.

There are generational differences, to be sure; younger employees who were weaned on laptops and wireless access are comfortable working from anywhere. "The idea that they would have to come to an office to do their job is really very foreign to them," says DeCarlis. But, she emphasizes, there are many people who want to work remotely, and age has nothing to do with it. Maybe they live an hour from the office, have small kids at home, or simply work better in distraction-free environments. Regardless of the reasoning, telecommuting is about to get a whole lot easier.