The main purpose that is most cited as a reason for attaining higher education is the desire to find a good job. Although the value of a good education is priceless, the skills that companies want to see in potential employees are the key to finding a steady and well-paying work. As the job market changes so do the skill requirements for workers and now more than ever there is a demand for people who are comfortable using the Internet, sometimes even working from home unsupervised.
Telecommuting employees (meaning those who attend work via a computer without actually entering an office) are increasingly commonplace in a wide array of businesses and organizations. A Reuters poll revealed that approximately one in five people around the world currently telecommute “frequently” and nearly 10% work from home every day. Even more astoundingly, the Wall Street Journal, the Telework Research Network, and the Consumer Electronics Association have all suggested that over 50 million American workers (nearly 40% of the working population) could telecommute at least part of the time. Although 10% might not seem like a large portion of people, when considering that telecommuting is a concept that is barely a decade old the numbers are staggering. It is only logical to assume that in another ten years the number of telecommuting employees will be substantially—perhaps shockingly—higher.
Communicative and informational technologies are expanding at a dizzying speed. The rapid pace of new ways to connect to people from virtually anywhere in the world is allowing many businesses and organizations to branch out to wider audiences with much less monetary risk than would have been the case prior to the invention of the Internet. Although some jobs (like medical care) can only be done by going on-site, many jobs in finance, marketing and advertising, software, and even education can be achieved without one having to occupy a specific location. Telecommuting is also a cheaper model for businesses overall since they do not need to pay rent for building space or upkeep numerous business locations. According to the Telework Research Network, full-time telework saves companies approximately $20,000 per employee.
Telecommuting has many benefits and thus a seemingly bright future. It increases employability by expanding the talent pool and allowing people anywhere in the world to work for a company, even if they have not ever stepped foot onto its actual headquarters (or even live in the same country). It reduces traffic congestion and, subsequently, pollution. It has also been suggested that being able to work from home increases employee job satisfaction, productivity, and morale. It also helps to reduce absenteeism and turnover and gives employees more time to spend with their families and thus more and more people are considering the ability to engage in telework to be a major recruiting incentive.
Of course, there are also drawbacks to telecommuting. Some people need supervision to work and tend to “slack off” when they are home and left to their own devices. Contradictorily, some employees tend to overwork themselves when they are not scheduled to work at specific hours. There have also been a number of scams connected with work-from-home and telecommuting positions so anyone seeking to telecommute must be sure that they are connecting with a reputable organization. Finally, there can be discrepancies in pay between onsite employees and telecommuting workers. Many telecommuting positions do not pay as highly as onsite positions even if telecommuters tend to be more productive. These issues still persist although they are being adjusted as telecommuting grows increasingly popular.
Telecommuting is a very new concept that will probably not be truly main stream for several more years. However, if one considers the rapid advances in technology and the rate of growth in virtual communication then it is not unrealistic to assume that within the coming decades telecommuting will be the “norm” for the majority of workers.
People who work from home must be self-sufficient and self-motivated. They must have a passion for their job and be willing to create suitable and productive work without being overseen by a boss, as was the case in traditional office settings. People who successfully attend school online—which is an ever increasing number of students of all ages—already have many of these qualities. Hence, it is not unlikely that within the next few decades people educated virtually will be at an advantage to their brick and mortar taught peers.
Although it might seem like science fiction, the future is rooted in technology and the communicative and informational possibilities that the World Wide Web offers. As people become more comfortable with technology from younger ages, it is likely to assume that it will one day be the primary way to engage society from classroom to career. People who are interested in the online realm, specifically online learning, should be aware of these incredible potentials and do their utmost to ensure that the technical transition is handled with care and emphasis on a positive and flourishing future for society.