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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.

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  • AllisonOKelly

    You’re right, Ariel. The need and desire to be able to work from home is not exclusive to Gen Y. Parents and older generations are now also able to utilize technology in order to work productively anytime, anywhere. We are at the beginning stages of a dramatic workforce shift with remote working being the obvious and preferred work style of the future.-Allison O'Kelly Mom Corps CEO

  • Rebekah Vint

    I am co-owner of a small human factors research firm and over the past eight years we have transitioned to being a 100% virtual/distributed team. All of our team members work from home offices from various cities across the country. There was a period of time when some team members worked in our main office and others worked from home, but about three years ago we decided to forego the office space all together and allow everyone to work from home. The cost savings have been tremendous and the team members enjoy the flexibility working from home provides them; however, there are some inherent pitfalls to working from home. Over the years, we have learned how to mitigate some of these pitfalls. See my recent blog post Three Tips to Improve Your Home-Office Work Experience and Productivity at http://www.researchintegration....

    As beneficial as it has been for our company's bottom line and our team members' happiness to let the office space go, we haven't completely let go of the desks and workspace. We encourage team members to have desks and work from a designated home-office space. These requirements are stated in each team member's At-Will Employment Agreement. As a human factors company we understand the health and safety benefits afforded to our team members when working in an ergonomically sound environment. In addition, we recognize that there are risks to productivity, work quality, and information security if team members do not have a designated work space. The governance and management of these types of issues were a bit tricky to figure out at the beginning, but I think we are on the right track.

    Now that more are embracing working from home, the need for guidance on best practices to facilitate effective team work in virtual or distributed teams is on the rise. I have been researching this topic to understand how our experiences and internal practices compare to recommended practices. Unfortunately, thus far, it seems we are still ahead of the curve; I have found little research on teams that are permanently distributed. 

    I look forward to your future posts about working from home.

  • Pramod

    Hi Rebekah, my name is Pramod and I run a virtual office company called "Intelligent Office"....have been embracing the virtual trends for almost nine years.  I have also started a new company called "MyStaffNow" focused on hiring virtual, knowledge workers.  We are conducting some surveys and would love to have the opportunity to speak with you.


  • ROAR

    Great post! This is how ROAR is, the mobile technology company I work for. At, we make mobile apps, mobile websites, and manage social media from a team spread out all over the country! We are a fan of working from home! It also helps that we are passionate about what we do, working with a lot of non-profit groups is a great motivator. It might be harder to work from home doing something that you don't enjoy or believe in. That may be the key- if you are going to work from home, make sure your doing something that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning!

  • Dasha Golubeva

    Telecommuting is becoming a more and more common workstyle. A few months ago, we ran a survey with 1,000+ international respondents representing companies of various size, and over 80% said they work remotely at least a couple of hours. And every fourth respondent believes his or her office will go fully virtual within 1-2 years. If you're interested, you can check out the other findings here -

  • Heather

    The key is flexibility and teleworking affords that. With the global world, more employees are working on global -- or at least national -- teams so the idea that you have to work in an office to be part of a team or create a sense culture seems very old school.
    Heather at

  • Teresa Boardman

    I have to smile at this.  for at leas the last decade working from anywhere is the next big thing but most employers do not know how to work with people who are off site.  If they did they could choose from a larger pool of workers and sometimes they could even pay people less because wages are lower in some parts of the country than in others. 

  • AustinNewbie

    At Dell, where space can be limited, working remote provides the employees with options. And I manage a team that is remote by design anyway (in regional locations like China, UK and Brazil) as well as those that are on-site. And it is indeed a matter of what the individual decides is best as some love to come to office for the interaction and some prefer working at home so that they can focus and have a quiet space. The productivity level is high in both situations.

  • Kingston University

     Regardless of the reasoning, telecommuting is about to get a whole lot easier. very true. But how much easier can it get than it is right now?  Large Companies such as the Schaeffler Group to small one on one shops allow working at home now. Working in your pjs however can also be difficult.

  • MiradadeMujer

    I work from home. I have to add this generation will raise kids proving even more care, no more after school care. Kids can be at home while mom is working. 

  • Dieter Segers

      I'don't think one should be paid based on the amount of hours he or she worked but on the results they get and the amount of work that is done. So if you feel like taking a break to do the laundry (or picking up the kids from school, coocking ...), why should that be any problem? I see 'office workers' taking breaks as well ( smoking, chatting at the coffee machine, catching up with colleagues,...).
    So I like to believe that at the end of the day the home-worker will have done at least as much work.

  • spinbutton

    I guess it depends upon your job and the age of the kids as to how much attention you can give your children while you are working. I think it is important to remember that your employer is paying for you to do office work - not to do the laundry, clean up the kitchen, make kids lunches, help them with homework. 

  • Barbara Salvador

    The more people who work from home the more we will be in our communities, using our businesses, working out, and sharing extra time with our neighbors.  It allows us to be more involved with our children and our families.  It allows us the life balance flexibility.

  • Karen Martin

    Good piece, Ariel. I've just experienced the opposite end of the spectrum where I wanted to hire home-based staff and one of the strongest candidates who's 28 and highly social wanted to work in an office among people. Companies are going to need to be increasingly sensitive to and flexible around individual preferences, In my case, I had to pass the candidate by because I'm not interested in obtaining office space for a few people who may need/want it.

  • Peter Chee

    Working from home is ok for a while. I did it for three years. I would have to say that even though I'm totally Type A and driven beyond belief, I thrive off the energy of other people. You don't get that from working at home. So while it's cool to be able to work in your PJ's, I'd pick an inspiring place to work from 100% of the time over working from home... which is absolutely why I run Thinkspace.

  • Peter Chee

    Simon and Michael,

    The other thing that I think gets lost in working from home is the ability for a company to create any sense of a company culture. It's not that it can't be done, but, I've spoken with hundreds of entrepreneurs and in the beginning it might work for a little while to work from home but or have virtual teams, but, it's not the same was being in the same space working together. While the flexibility might rock, it's easy to become disconnected from the company. I've heard this from founders and their employees. It's absolutely not the way I would ever try and build a company. Perhaps once the company is larger and remote offices are formed or perhaps regional sales offices are launched it might make sense to do this. For startups, in the beginning, I'd say no way... it's hard enough for startups to begin with, no reason to add physical distance to also be a barrier.

  • Simon Dudley

    Peter, my personality type is similar to yours so I get where you're coming from. However it doesn't suit all of us. My ideal situation would be working from an office 1-2 days a week and when I do go to the office the roads have 80% quieter than they are today because everyone else is effectively doing the same. That seems like an ideal scenario. We all get want we want.

  • Michael Dettbarn

     +1 to what Peter said. I think working from home can only be a temporary solution. You want to stay connected, get feedback and creative input from others once in a while, so a co-working space might be the ideal choice.

  • Cedricj

    Working from home must also include Starbucks, the airport lounge,  soon on most flights, while fishing in Colorado, or anywhere there is wireless internet!

    It is not the place where one works but whether the project is completed on time and on budget. 

    When we treat people like professionals and measure their productivity in the above manner  and not just by "in seat at the office" behavior maybe the level of work satisfaction will increase as well as the productivity.
    Inspiring leaders to inspire others