Telecommuting big in Mankato

Published 11:08 am Monday, March 11, 2013

MANKATO — New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Mankato, North Mankato and St. Cloud are among the top 10 metro areas nationwide when it comes to the percentage of people who telecommute for work.

The data show 7.7 percent of the combined workforce in Mankato and North Mankato work from home, while 7.6 percent of the St. Cloud workforce telecommutes. At last count, Mankato and North Mankato had more than 4,000 people working from home full- and part-time.

“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,” said Greater Mankato Growth president and chief executive Jonathan Zierdt.

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Zierdt said computer technology has allowed telecommuting to replace the daily grind of commuting.

Jason Giroux, a North Mankato Web designer and marketing specialist who telecommutes, said he believes he’s more productive working at home.

“I definitely would have a hard time going back to an office at this point,” he said.

National companies such as Best Buy and Yahoo recently pulled the plug on telecommuting, saying corporate collaborative and creative needs are best served by on-site staff. But Minnesota doesn’t seem to buy into that argument.

Just a few years ago, the Twin Cities metro area won a share of a $1 billion federal award for its efforts to promote telecommuting to ease traffic congestion.

At Minnesota State, Mankato, 17 people work at home for part of their work week. Among the conditions: Employees must not use telecommuting as a substitute for child care, and telecommuters must be available by phone or email during work hours.

The census defines a telecommuter as someone whose work is home-based at least one day a week.

Mary and Marty Cassem of Lake Crystal are a telecommuting married couple sharing a home office. She’s an area community relations representative for the American Cancer Society. He’s a distribution manager for a New Jersey bearings company.

“There’s definitely pros and cons,” Mary Cassem said.

While she enjoys the flexibility, she said having your workplace at home can be hard. “You never quite get away from the office,” she said.