The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 10, 2013

Telecommuting: Truly at home in the office

In his former job, Jason Giroux would leave his office and go home after work.

Now when he leaves his office, he is home.

“I believe I’m more productive working at home,” said the North Mankato Web designer⁄marketing specialist. “I definitely would have a hard time going back to an office at this point.”

Giroux is among the tens of thousands of telecommuters in Minnesota who have made the state a national hotbed of home workers.

Moreover, Mankato⁄North Mankato and St. Cloud are among the top 10 metro areas nationally in percentages of work-at-home workforces with Mankato⁄North Mankato at 7.7 percent and St. Cloud at 7.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Although such national companies as Best Buy and Yahoo recently have pulled the plug on work-at-home employees, saying corporate collaborative and creative needs are best served by on-site staff, similar blowback in Minnesota appears to be all but nil.

In fact, the Twin Cities metro area won a share of a $1 billion federal funding award a few years ago for its efforts to promote telecommuting as a means of easing traffic congestion.

Mankato⁄North Mankato at last count had more than 4,000 people working at home full and part time.

Greater Mankato Growth President and CEO Jonathan Zierdt said when he heard about the area’s and the state’s thriving cohort of home workers, he had some questions:

“Who are these people, what are they doing, and why?”

Census data and his personal observations helped with the answers.

“In the Upper Midwest we have a strong work ethic, and if you’re working at home for somebody, you’ve got to have that characteristic. Also, you have to have flexible employers.”

At Minnesota State University, 17 people have arrangements to work at home for part of their work week under the school’s detailed telecommuting policy.

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