This study goes beyond telecommuting. The report considers the complete range of impacts of telecommunications on transportation of people and goods. This extends us into a range of telephenomena including telework, teleservices, teleprocess, and telestructure. These concepts are defined as follows:
Telework means telecommunications-enabled rearrangements of where workers are located. Telecommuting, employees working at home instead of in their usual office, is a small part of telework. Mobile sales forces and suburban data processing facilities are more prevalent examples of telework.
The assumed base case for employment is that of a worker who lives in a residential unit and commutes daily to a separate work facility. Variations in this pattern that represent different types of telework are shown in Exhibit 1-6. Those who are optimistic about telecommunications as a substitute for travel focus on the pattern of working at home and close to home. Pessimists would focus on the mobile and flexible work patterns that allow working in a variety of remote and portable locations.
The private research firm LINK Resources annually conducts a private telephone survey of several thousand U.S. households to estimate the number of home workers. In 1993, they counted 41.1 million, including persons working in home-based businesses and regular office employees doing after-hours work, as well as telecommuters working at home. Telecommuting accounted for 7.6 million workers as of early 1993, up 15% from the 6.6 million counted in 1992. This number, which includes some contract workers not counted in the USDOT study (USDOT, 1993), is about 6% of the U.S. labor force (Miller, 1993).
The growth of telecommuting, as measured by LINK Resources (USDOT, 1993, p. 1), has been strong for the past five years. No one has identified any reasons to suggest that this growth will abate in the foreseeable future. Several factors are at work: First and foremost, telecommuting is a technique that works. Telecommuting is an optional way of expanding employees' work locations in those circumstances where it yields both improved organizational performance and employee satisfaction. The need for more information workers, the workers who have jobs that are most adaptable to telecommuting, will continue. Computers are becoming smaller, more portable, and more powerful, offering new ways of connecting to corporate and public networks from any location via wireless communications or the ordinary public telephone network. New software is becoming available to support collaborative work by people who are separated by distance but have network access to share forms, documents, data files, and other work products.
Strong employment growth in small companies also supports the telecommuting trend, since these companies are more enthusiastic users of flexible arrangements than are larger companies. Further, there is no reason to think that there is an immediate top end on worker demand for telecommuting or on the need for employers to respond affirmatively. One contributing factor is that flexible locational arrangements are considered desirable by workers. Another is the looming shortage of skilled workers over the next ten to twenty years as the effect of the birth dearth following the baby boom years works its way through the economy.
Ex 1-6: Telework variations.
Full-time home telecommuter: Employee routinely works from an at-home office or workstation within the same metropolitan area as the normal office and travels only once per week or less frequently to the normal office.
Telecenter/branch telecommuter: Employee works for reasons of convenience and travel-saving at a different facility provided by the employer but retains a desk in the normal office.
Telecenter/branch workers: People who are reassigned to working regularly and routinely from a remote telecenter or branch office somewhere else in the metropolitan area, their normal office being eliminated, downsized, or shared.
Virtual office worker: Employees who are provided with home or portable office equipment and have their normal office taken away because they spend the vast majority (typically 80% or more) of their work time in the field.
Long-distance telecommuters: People who would have a company office with the rest of their work group if they lived nearby but instead are allowed to work from a distant residential location because their employer wishes to retain them. They may report to a more convenient branch office, work from a home office, or do both.
Mobile professionals: People who usually have a normal office to which they officially report to work but who are able to work continuously with location independence because of extensive travel requirements inherent in job responsibilities. Includes traveling sales people, field auditors, trainers, and maintenance technicians.
Independent homeworkers: Self-employed people or business owners who could have an office outside of the home but who choose not to and instead work routinely from an office at home. Also called "lone eagles" (Burgess, 1992).
Remote regional field workers: Employees assigned to cover a geographic area that is remote from the main office of their supervisor, so they are required to work from home, a branch office, a rented office, or some combination.
Decentralized work groups: All of the employees in a work group are reassigned to another employer-provided facility in a different part of the metropolitan area from the normal office.
Remote branch/back office: Rather than expand the staff and space at the normal office, the employer establishes a new office in a remote location. The employer transfers existing employees to live and work in the new location or else hires new people who already live nearby.
Teleservices: means telecommunications-enabled rearrangements of the locations where services are delivered to customers. Distance learning, automatic teller machines, and lawyers reached through "900" numbers are examples of teleservices. A teleservice classification by means of access is presented in Exhibit 1-7.
Ex 1-7: Teleservices classified by means of access.
Teleservices are significant in the overall metropolitan traffic problem because they have a growing impact on non-work personal travel, which includes shopping and other consumer behavior. As illustrated by Exhibit 1-8, nonwork travel miles are showing more growth than are work miles.
Teleprocesses: encompass telecommunications-enabled marketing, production, logistics, financing, and administrative processes of organizations and of multiple organizations. Work group collaboration through groupware, electronic data interchange (EDI), and computerized inventory management are examples of teleprocesses.
Each teleprocess generates customer, worker, and supplier travel. Telework is teleprocesses from a worker location point of view, whereas teleservice means teleprocesses from a customer location point of view. Telework and teleservice are parts of teleprocess, but they are not the only parts. For example, telelogistics refers to the influence of telecommunications on the procurement, transportation, and maintenance of materiel, such as raw materials and finished goods. The relationship between teleprocesses, telework, and teleservices is shown in Exhibit 1-9.
Teleprocesses are an important new pattern of resource allocation that provides people, organizations, and the American economy with more flexibility in where, when, and how work is done. Flexibility is largely driven by the surging strength and innovativeness of relatively small U.S. firms, although older, larger companies are increasingly implementing new teleprocesses as well.
Teleprocesses take place in government as well as business, and they apply to the production of both goods and services. Teleprocesses are usually implemented to increase the performance of the organization that uses them. For example, they are used to increase sales, cut costs, enhance service quality, or improve customer satisfaction.
An example of a teleprocess is computerized inventory management in retail stores, in which a central computer monitors the product stock levels in each individual store. The computer watches what is bought, as recorded by bar code scanners at the cash register, and orders new stock as needed. The system provides the basis for constantly introducing new products to replace existing ones that fall into the bottom half of sales performance at a store. This lets each neighborhood store meet the unique needs of its customers.
Some teleprocesses are not directly related to the location of workers and customers. Still, teleprocesses inherently have an impact on the location of workers and customers in operations subject to competitive threat, because the survival of such operations is determined by the effectiveness of their teleprocesses.
Telestructure: refers to telecommunications infrastructure and also to telecommunications-enabled infrastructure of all kinds. Smart buildings, computerized traffic control, and the national public switched telephone network are all parts of telestructure. The Federal Government has coined the term National Information Infrastructure (NII) to describe America's telestructure.
Telestructure is the enabling infrastructure for telework, teleservice, and teleprocess. It provides the environment in which teleprocesses work.
Teleprocesses and telestructure together make up telephenomena, as shown in Exhibit 1-9. Telephenomena, the applications and infrastructure of telecommunications combined with computers, are allowing massive structural change in how and where organizations set up operating processes, how and where people do their work, how and where services are delivered, and how and where infrastructure performance changes as a result of telecommunications advances. The emphasis in this study is on "where," although "where" has a close, complex relationship with "how."