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30 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Connecting to a virtual private network is far more demanding than loading a news website or streaming music. MDUs Are the New Office Buildings Technology enables workers to telecommute and operate home-based businesses. Accommodating these workers is yet one more reason for owners of multiple-dwelling- unit (MDU) properties to provide robust broadband service. By Michael Slovin / XFINITY Communities T he nature of work has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. More workers are telecommuting than ever before, and there is an increasingly large freelance and independent contractor workforce. ough many of these employees occupy America's coffee shops, the majority of them work at home. Increasingly, apartment buildings and high-rises are the new office parks. As technology advances and the attitudes of employers change, the number of telecommuting workers has risen dramatically. A 2015 Gallup survey found that 37 percent of U.S. workers reported having telecommuted, up from 9 percent in 1995. e study also showed that telecommuting is more common among white-collar workers and high-wage earners and, more important, that most believe telecommuters are at least as productive as in- office workers. In addition to the many traditional workers who perform some or all tasks at home, there is a growing labor market of freelancers and independent contractors who work wherever they choose. In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 53 million U.S. workers earned income outside of a traditional 9-to-5 job, and a growing number of them chose to freelance full time. One study commissioned by business software firm Intuit suggested that contingent workers could exceed 40 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020. In all these reports, the trend line is clearly moving in the same direction. A number of developments drive this phenomenon. Many white-collar workers conduct their entire workdays in front of computers, interfacing with co-workers mainly through email and other electronic means of communication. e world in which they work is increasingly global, and connecting virtually with internationally distributed co-workers, vendors and customers is becoming standard. Additionally, there are online platforms for professionals of all kinds to find short-term, on- demand work – an Uber for everything. e root cause of this disruption in the labor market is, of course, technology. Employees increasingly experience work through software, either because they use business productivity tools such as email or unified communications or because software is central to the very nature of their work – as in web design, for example. When workers are dispersed, companies are challenged to provide and manage technology services for them, and employees themselves are challenged to find adequate network infrastructure. Connecting to a virtual private network to access work databases is far more