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Male teleworkers do it all over the place

8 July 1999

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It was five years ago today... Ah, the joys of teleworking: released from the burdensome commute to work; unshackled from the desk; and free to roam the wide savannah of mobility.

But for those still making the daily trudge to the office, what has actually changed in the last few years?:

Male teleworkers do it all over the place

By Lucy Sherriff
Published Thursday 8th July 1999 14:09 GMT

The vast majority of teleworkers are men, according to a study published by the Institute for Employment Studies. Almost 70 per cent of those working away from the office were male professionals in mid career.

A teleworker was defined as someone who works from home at least one day a week. The authors of the report were clearly surprised by their findings as they had expected that women with children would account for the greater portion of telecommuters. But not only were men more likely to be taking advantage of comms technology that women, there were gender differences in the way people worked away from the office as well.

Men were more likely to work from a variety of locations than women, of whom 41 per cent worked in the home. Those who do telecommute tend to be in the middle of their career, with 60 per cent of the teleworkforce are aged 35 to 47, compared to 47 per cent of the working population as a whole. They are also more than twice as likely to be in professional occupations, and are largely (34 per cent) from the financial and business services sector. It should not be so surprising that men are more likely to telework than women, or that those who do telework are from mid career professional positions. A certain degree of seniority is needed to take the decision to work away from the office, an it is in just these types of positions that women are under represented. Receptionists, traditionally a female dominated job, would be pretty useless working from home.

What is more surprising is that people with disabilities are still under-represented. Despite the mobile office being hailed as a great boon for equal opportunities, disabled workers are represented in about the same proportion as in the conventional workforce, roughly nine per cent.

The telecommuting phenomenon is more popular and growing faster in the UK than in the rest of Europe. In 1998 it accounted for just five per cent of the workforce, but the study estimates that the number of people regularly working away from the office is growing at about 200,000 per year.


A July 2003 report by the Institute for Employment Studies indicated that by early 2002, 1.78 million people - almost six-and-a-half per cent of the UK workforce - were teleworking. Of these, 1,203,844 were men and 576,178 women.

The trend towards women working from home and men going walkabout continued: 53 per cent of "telehomeworkers" were women, while men were "more likely to use the new information technologies to support a roving workstyle", and accounted for 79 per cent of "mobile teleworkers".

Telehomeworking was a viable option for women with young children, as IES Research Fellow Peter Bates noted: "Whilst 12 per cent of all women in employment have children under five, this rises to 23 per cent among women who are telehomeworkers. But surely telehomeworking also opens up the opportunity for men to become househusbands and share in the childcare?"

It does indeed, and the report further states that: "On 6 April 2003, the government introduced an important new legal duty on employers to consider applications for flexible working from parents of young or disabled children."

Whether parents avail themselves of this opportunity and whether teleworking as a viable alternative to the traditional office-based work paradigm continues to grow in popularity remains to be seen.

In the meantime, this Reg hack must disconnect from the wireless LAN, abandon the sun-dappled patio and attend to a particularly malodorous nappy. ®

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