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5 Groups Who Would Benefit from Access to Work-from-Home Jobs

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I’ve seen many articles online over the last few years written about the pros and cons of employee telecommuting programs. There are extreme opinions on this topic with those in favor pointing to measurable increases in employee productivity, (job) engagement, (life) satisfaction and retention. In contrast, the opposite camp claims telecommuting disrupts communication between team members and negatively impacts a company’s ability to be agile and innovative (IBM, Yahoo). In reality, there is truth to both sides of the argument with one outweighing the other depending on the industry and job type.

Despite the attention telecommuting receives from workplace strategies leader Global Workplace Analytics and others, there continues to be limited access to remote work programs across the spectrum. Data indicates that approximately 4 million Americans (about 3% of the workforce) currently work from home at least half the time, up 115% since 2005. However, only 7% of U.S. employers allow some or all of their workforce to telecommute. Most U.S. organizations remain tethered to the assumption that managers need to actually see their employees working for work to get done.

Telecommuting is growing, slowly but surely.

In contrast, companies like Buffer, Flexjobs, Toptal and MySQL (Forbes, March 2016) embrace the 21st century notion that performance should be assessed through results, not attendance. Buffer employees in particular “utilize a vast array of collaboration apps and tools to engage with each other in a way that makes distance an equally or more effective way to work” (Ritika Singh, December 2015, Harvard Business School – Business Initiative). Despite being 100% remote, Buffer is as agile, innovative and successful as a traditional co-locating company.

It's time for attitudes about telecommuting to shift.

Attitudes like those of Buffer’s founders represent the beginning of an important shift in corporate policy. More importantly, they open avenues for job-seekers in at-risk or underemployed populations who may find it challenging to identify, win and maintain a traditional on-site position that can accommodate their unique needs. Such populations could benefit greatly from work-from-home opportunities. Flexible, remote options may be just the solution for seniors struggling to stay afloat, military veterans learning to re-acclimate to civilian life and individuals with disabilities or chronic conditions who may find it challenging to work a typical 9-5 job. The potential rewards for the groups in question could be life-changing.

Seniors

Work from home - or the beach!

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports over 25 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure and live at or below 250% of the federal poverty level ($29,425/year for a single person). In addition, millions of other older adults struggle to meet their monthly expenses, even though they live above the federal poverty level and are not considered “poor.” Older adults are faced with job loss or underemployment, rising housing and medical costs, diminished savings (if any), inadequate nutrition and a lack of access to transportation. Lingering debt, increases to Medicare premiums and decreases in social security distributions have had a distressing and lasting impact on seniors’ quality of life.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) documented nearly a half million older adults aged 55-64 and 168,000 aged 65+ who wanted to work but were unemployed 27 weeks or longer in 2014. The statistics are even more discouraging for female older workers and older workers of color. NCOA notes that older women received about $4500