Last year saw record growth in the number of US workers who switched to some form of telecommuting - up 14 per cent to around 32 million workers.
The new figures come from high-tech research firm, Cahners In-Stat. By 2004, nearly 40 million Americans are expected to be telecommuters, the firm said.
Large enterprises, which have lagged behind their smaller counterparts in setting up facilities for staff to work from home, may be set to drive the market.
"Providing telecommuting can help to retain employees as well as being a way to cut company real-estate costs," said Kneko Burney, director of eBusiness Infrastructure & Services for In-Stat.
Increasing availability of high-speed internet access across many US markets, combined with deployment of virtual private networks (VPN), has also boosted growth and enabled companies to set up remote access without the need for special equipment such as racks of modems and remote access servers at the company site.
This access to the company intranet and the internet is essential for most telecommuters. According to the survey, 72 per cent of telecommuters access the internet for their work. That is set to grow to 79 per cent this year alone.
But while smaller US companies are taking advantage of telecommuting, large US enterprises are still lagging behind. Last year, only 26 per cent of telecommuters worked at large enterprise firms.
Nevertheless, that represents roughly five million internet-accessing home workers and about 10 per cent of the total enterprise workforce, with the numbers of online enterprise telecommuters growing at an average rate of 17 per cent annually.
But the shift to greater telecommuting will not be painless, Burney said. As part of the survey, the firm found that 75 per cent of IT departments believed that providing support for telecommuters was far more costly to their departments.
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