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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Telecommuting Centers and Related Concepts: A Review of Practice


Telecommuting centers have been in existence for more than a decade in countries outside the United States. More recently, in the U.S. the potential for these telecenters to relieve urban congestion, to contribute to air quality improvement, and to encourage local economic growth has been recognized. This growing awareness has brought about the need to understand better those pioneering experiences with telecommuting centers, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. This report collects and analyzes information on established telecommuting centers and related concepts for the purpose of providing input to the planning and operation stages of the Residential-Area-Based Offices (RABO) Project, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

These remote work centers are found on five continents, in at least twenty countries including the U.S., and in a variety of functional forms. Few of these existing centers are consistent with the emphasis of the RABO project on residential proximity with primary access being via walking, bicycling, transit and neighborhood clean fuel vehicles. Despite these differences, this review still has important lessons for the RABO and other telecommuting center projects.

Our findings suggest that the most persistent of these remote work center forms at this point are the rural telecottage and single-employer satellite office. The multiple-employer telecenter has had mixed success in demonstrations to date, possibly due to the complexity involved in implementing and operating this type of facility.

It was found that early, extensive marketing efforts are crucial to center success, as is close attentiont to the elements of site selection. Critical barriers are to the adoption of multiple-employer telecommuting centers include reluctance of employers to bear the cost of two workspaces per telecommuting employee, and managerial resistance to supervising remote employees, and concern over the security of proprietary information. In general, the concept of a multiple-use center (rather than a "pure" telecommuting center) appears to be a robust model for success in remote work facilities.

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