As of July, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was 6.2% or roughly 10 million workers, down from nearly 10% at the height of the great recession. The current rate of unemployment is actually close to the norm, but for those 10 million workers out of jobs, things are certainly not normal.

State governments spend billions each quarter to offer unemployment benefits to these individuals. In addition, state governors spend millions each year enticing corporations to build headquarters and factories within their state borders, doling out tax abatements and incentives to close the deal. These state governors compete to draw industry and jobs into their state by traditional methods. In many cases, these elected officials have campaigned on the promise of job creation and are looking to tout their successes in these areas before the next election.

In my estimation, the application of telework presents a similar (if not more appealing) and completely overlooked opportunity for job creation in each of these states; one that does not require massive governmental investment, negotiation of tax incentives or environmental impact studies. Equipping the unemployed with tools to find and retain telework jobs should be part of state-issued unemployment benefits packages or, at the very least, a key element of each state’s job placement assistance programs.

Expanding on Good Ideas Already Supporting Telework

The idea of providing telework options to those who are disadvantaged or suffering temporary hardship, like the unemployed, is certainly not a new one. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires organizations of a certain size to offer “telework as a reasonable accommodation” to employees who may be disabled and otherwise unable to physically commute to, or work from, an office, when that organization has a telework program in place for other employees. Offering telework job placement assistance and providing telework tools to the unemployed is a simple, logical, and cost-effective next step, and is in line with the spirit of the ADA law.

Telework Progress in Unlikely Places

The Middle East, of all places, may have the most progressive views on the application of telework as a means to reduce unemployment rates. One middle eastern nation, Saudi Arabia, faces such astounding unemployment rates among its workforce-ready women (approximately 33% unemployment) that its Ministry of Labor is working with U.S.-based Officescape to develop a national telework platform. This platform connects job-seekers across this nation with available, remote work positions, removing geographic and cultural barriers to employment and reducing unemployment rates. Once connected, it provides workers with the remote work tools they need to be successful in their roles.

In addition, the adoption of a managed telework platform allows small businesses and enterprises in Saudi Arabia to effectively manage a remote workforce, helping each local business compete in the global marketplace.

Taking a Leadership Position on Telework

At Telework Advocacy, we believe that telework is quickly becoming a preferred work strategy and is an important component of the work flexibility puzzle. The interest and attendance growth at our annual Telework Summit bears this out.

In addition to increases in the implementation of telework programs in state and local government workforces, as well as private sector companies, each state has the opportunity to take a leadership position in bringing in new telework jobs.

As organizations across the country and world begin to break down geographic boundaries to hiring with the use of telework tools, like those provided by Officescape, FlexJobs, and others, states should be prepared to market their workforces as telework-ready and to compete for those positions.

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