The home working public-private split in America, with federal employers much more likely to take up telecommuting, is rapidly disappearing. But what firms of all shapes and sizes are still failing to wake up to is the potential security dangers this brings.
A study by CDW Corporation has found that take-up of home working and telecommuting by private sector firms is on the rise, with on average 14 per cent of employees now adopting it, compared with 17 per cent within federal firms.
The poll of 1,800 federal and private sector IT professionals and employees found that more than three quarters of private sector employers now provided technical support for remote workers, up 27 percentage points from 2007.
By comparison more than half of federal IT professionals said their agencies provided IT support for telecommuters, with federal IT support for telecommuting growing by nearly a quarter since 2005.
"The private sector is solidly embracing telework," Ken Grimsley, vice-president of strategic sales for CDW.
"Continuity of operations alone could justify the investment, and improved employee satisfaction is icing on that cake," he added.
But he also warned: "Still, many businesses remain unprepared for recovery from disruptions or are failing to take advantage of affordable, advanced security technologies that are justifiable even without telework. We have a long way to go."
More than four out of 10 federal IT professionals ranked security as a top priority, against just over a quarter of private sector IT professionals.
More than eight out of 10 federal IT professionals and nearly nine out of 10 private sector IT professionals reported that their organisation had effective security procedures and systems.
And, optimistically, more than half of federal agencies and nearly three quarters of private sector employers authenticated telecommuters individually, in addition to confirming which devices are accessing their networks, the survey found.
Yet more than a fifth of federal employees and nearly a third of private sector employees said they were unaware of their organisation's security policies.
While technical support for telecommuters had increased, the percentage of federal employees eligible to work remotely had actually decreased, to 40 per cent from a high of 55 per cent in 2006.
And more than half of federal employees and four out of 10 of private sector employees said that having a choice to telecommute would influence their decision as to whether to remain with their employer or accept a new job.
More than half of federal employees who said they could work through emergency, disaster or other disruption said they were eligible to telecommute.
And more than seven out of 10 of private sector employees who could continue working through a disruption said their company had a telecommuting program.