telecommuting, an arrangement by which people work at home using a computer and telephone, accessing work-related materials at a business office, or transmitting materials to an office, by means of a Internet connection; it is also known as telework. Telecommuting hours can range from the occasional morning or afternoon to nearly full-time work. Although the term "telecommuting" was coined in the early 1970s, the practice only became popular in the 1990s as personal computers became more affordable and the Internet became more accessible. Initially conducted using a modem and telephone lines, telecommuting was made more feasible by cable and fiber-optic Internet connections. The development of lightweight portable computers and, later, smart phones also increased the ease of telecommuting. Government agencies and environmental groups have encouraged telecommuting because it reduces pollution, saves gasoline, and creates a less congested commuting environment. Companies have used telecommuting as a way of keeping valued employees who might otherwise be lost due to relocation or commuting stress. Although some people feel they can be more productive when working at home, others prefer an office environment.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.