When I think about who best would fit the teleworker role, I, like many, might guess it’s those who are the most experienced and need little direction, or moms with never-ending obligations at work and home. But, we would be wrong; neither one’s tenure nor family structure dominate the remote work world.
This begs the question: What drives the teleworker demographic? The answer, it seems, is not in who would most desire it or benefit from it, or even in those who would take to it easily, but rather which occupations and populations are conducive to it. Let’s take a look.
With moms, there is an obvious motive for a flexible work arrangement because it fulfills both the needs of the employer and the home. However, work-from-home moms do not make up the largest percentage of teleworkers; reality betrays expectation. In recent studies, it was found that 75% of the remote workforce are men. And, of those men, it’s a coin flip as to whether they have families or are single.
Why is this?
A considerable amount of remote work falls in the areas of Software Development, Engineering, Research and Public Relations. Because of communication technology, many of the roles supporting these industries do not require physical proximity to teams or clients to do the work. While women are staffed in these disciplines and are definitely able to participate in remote work opportunities, they still do not hold the majority of those positions. A large percentage of women in the workforce today continue to choose careers as Administrative Assistants, Nurses, Teachers, etc. For these hands-on professions telework opportunities are slim, and while the numbers of women in tech-based fields are rising, men still hold a big lead when it comes to the overall demographics of those career paths.
Another interesting demographic is age.
It doesn’t appear that age is a major factor in the teleworker staffing decisions. It’s true – those with the most experience also come with a proven track record and thus, a higher level of trust from their employer – however, many companies that allow teleworking also allow employees to start working remotely in as short as 6 months to a year, which opens telework to the youngest in the work force; new graduates. The newest population of workers, the Millennials, are expected to strongly embrace a telework option. They desire non-traditional, less constrained, less corporate-feeling careers and they are very comfortable in a virtual world. Growing up with the Internet and in the age of virtual reality, online gaming, Facetime/Skype, etc., working from a remote location is as natural to them as breathing.
You may be wondering, as I am: how might this demographic change in coming years?
As technology advances and makes remote collaboration even more effective and efficient, it’s expected that more and more workplace roles will become telework opportunities. Colleges and Universities have already begun offering online degrees and many campuses continue to upgrade their classrooms so that students can participate in the lectures from anywhere. And if students can be anywhere, professors and teachers can be anywhere, too, opening up a whole new career path to the wonders of remote work.
At the highest level of business, CEO’s who have extremely hectic travel schedules, are also able to telecommute. This option was previously not afforded to them and offers a great way for them to capitalize on the work-life balance that they need. The door is open for telework. Each of us, in various occupations, can and should look for ways to embrace it and capitalize on it no matter your age or career track; after all – as time and technology move forward, our social standings or ages or skill sets will take a backseat to the overwhelming opportunities presented by telecommuting.