Please cite GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com when you use this data
Reporters: We are constantly updating our database of over 4,000 documents on telework, alternative workplace strategies, and workplace flexibility. Please call or email for the latest data or for additional information (kate-at-globalworkplaceanalytics.com, 760-703-0377 Pacific Time).
About: Global Workplace Analytics is a consulting and research firm that focuses on the business case for emerging workplace strategies. Global Workplace Analytics is based in San Diego, California. Kate Lister is the president of the firm.
Additional Data: Our 27-page white paper, The State of Telework in the U.S. and other white papers offer in depth analyses of the data below and more. Note: some of our reports include data that is older than the data here; please refer to this page for the latest information.
Why the Numbers You Read Differ So Widely: This page of interest explains why there are so many widely ranging estimates of the size of the teleworker population.
These are the most current, authoritative, and up to date numbers about how many employees telecommute? (updated September 2013)
Click to enlarge
How Many People Telecommute? / What are the Growth Trends (updated September, 2013)
Based on a special analysis we ran of the latest American Community Survey data (2012) Here is data on employee telecommuters (not including the self-employed):
- How Many Telecommute at Least Half the Time—2.6% of the U.S. employee workforce (3.3 million people, not including the self-employed or unpaid volunteers) considered home their primary place of work (see Table 6). This figure is based on how American Community Survey respondents answered the question: What was your primary means of transportation to work during the survey week? “Worked at Home” was one of the options. There is no annual count of telecommuters who do so less frequently.
- Telework Grew Nearly 80% from 2005—Growth of Multiple Days per Week Employee Teleworkers (not including self-employed) telecommuting increased 79.7% from 2005 to 2012 though the rate of growth slowed during the recession (see Table 2 above)
- Telecommuting Workforce Grew While Total Workforce Declined 2011 to 2012—While telecommuting grew by 3.8% from 2011 to 2012, the size of the overall the non-self-employed workforce actually declined 1.5% declined (see Tables 2 and 3). For the period from 2005 to 2012, the telecommuter population grew by 79.7% while the non-self-employed workforce grew by only 7.1%.
- Breakdown of Teleworkers by Class of Worker—The federal government has the highest proportion of teleworkers (see Table 6):
- Federal employees =3.3%
- Private sector non-for profit employers = 2.9%
- Private sector for-profit employers = 2.6%
- State government workers = 2.4%
- Local government workers = 1.2%
- Telework Growth by Class of Worker—Growth within different sectors of the workforce varied widely (see Tables 1 and 2 above):
- Federal employees = 421.0% growth (433% of which occurred between 2005 and 2006, the year of Hurricane Katrina, thus it has actually declined in subsequent years)
- State government employees = 122.1% growth
- Not-for-profit employees = 87.6% growth
- For profit employees = 70.4%
- Local government employees = 62.3%
- Impact of the Recession on Employee Telework—While many conjectured that telecommuting would decline during the recession, it actually grew by nearly 16% from 2008 to 2012 though the growth rate, while still positive, has since slowed (see Table 2).
- Estimates of Less Frequent Telecommuters Vary Widely. Our best guess is about 25 million—There is no annual government-wide count of telecommuters who do so less than half the time and estimates vary widely. In 2010, based on its own limited survey, WorldatWork estimated that 16 million employees worked at home at least one day a month, a number that increased almost 62% between 2005 and 2010. Extrapolating from 2010 to 2014 would put the current number of those who telecommute at least one day a month at about 25 million.
- Government Telework—The 2012 Status of Telework in Federal Government shows 47% of Federal workers are eligible for telework, only 13% say they would not want to telework, and less than 8% do so once a week or more. You can find two white papers on federal telework here.
For information about why published telecommuting numbers vary so widely, click here.
The Self-Employed Work-at-Home Numbers
It is very misleading to look at the standard American Community Survey work at home numbers without subtracting the self-employed because the two populations have shown vastly different trends.
Taken together (self-employed and non-self employed), the work-at-home population grew 29.4% from 2005 to 2012. When you separate out the self-employed, you see that the employee telecommuting actually grew by 79.7% as stated above.
Below are the self-employed work-at home numbers:
- 2.8 Million Self-Employed People Consider Home Their Primary Place of Work—That represents 2% of the US workforce and 21% of the self-employed workforce (which totaled 13.4 million in 2012).
- The vast majority (69.7%) of the 2.8 billion of the above are unincorporated businesses—From 2005 to 2012, the unincorporated home-based self-employed population declined by 8.9% while the total unincorporated self-employed population declined by 8.9%.
- Home-based self-employment among those who were incorporated faired much better than those not home-based—The only category of self-employment that did not decline during the period (2005 to 2012) was that of the incorporated self-employed. That population which actually grew by 17.5%, compared to a 2.3% decline in total incorporated self-employed persons.
Regional Telecommuting Statistics and Trends (updated June 2011 based on special analysis of 2010 ACS)
- Among the 15 largest U.S. metro areas, San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos (CA) has the highest concentration of people who consider home their primary place of work (4.2%) and Detroit-Warren-Livonia (MI) has the lowest (1.8%).
- The region with the fastest percentage growth in regular employee telecommuting was Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (CA) – posting a 77% increase since 2005 (based on growth relative to the local total population; among populations with over 1 million workers).
- Among the 124 metropolitan areas evaluated, 34% showed greater five year growth in regular telecommuters than the national growth.
- In a quarter of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas, more people now telecommute than use public transportation as their principal means of transportation to work.
- There is no correlation between cities with the worst congestion or longest round-trip commutes and the extent of telework. For example, among the largest 15 metro areas, New York had the third lowest percent of regular telecommuters (2.1%).
How Many People Could Telework? / How Many Want To? (updated August 2012)
- Our estimate based on the current labor force composition is that 64 million U.S employees holds a job that is compatible at least part-time telework (50% of the workforce).
- 79% of U.S. workers say they would like to work from home at least part of the time (WorldatWork Telework Trendlines 2009). 87% of federal employees say they want to (2013 Federal Viewpoint Survey)
- Taken together the above number suggests that 50 million workers both could and want to telework.
Who Telecommutes? / Telecommuter Demographics (updated June 2011; not including the self-employed; cite State of Telework in the US)
- A typical telecommuter is 49 years old, college educated, a salaried non-union employee in a management or professional role, earns $58,000 a year, and works for a company with more than 100 employees.
- Relative to the total population, a disproportionate share of management, professional, sales and office workers telecommute.
- Using home as a ‘reasonable accommodation’ per the Americans with Disabilities Act, 316,000 disabled employees regularly work from home.
- Non-exempt employees are far less likely to work at home on a regular or ad hoc basis than salaried employees.
- Over 75% of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 per year putting them in the upper 80 percentile of all employees.
- Larger companies are more likely to allow telecommuting than smaller ones.
- Non-union organizations are more likely to offer telecommuting those with unions.
What Is the Potential Bottom Line Impact or Return on Investment of the Widespread Adoption of Telework in the U.S.? (updated August 2012)
- If those with compatible jobs and a desire to work from home did so just half the time (roughly the national average for those who do so regularly) the national savings would total over $700 Billion a year including:
- A typical business would save $11,000 per person per year
- The telecommuters would save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year
- The oil savings would equate to over 37% of our Persian Gulf imports
- The greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce permanently off the road.
- The Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the entire five-year cost of implementing telework throughout government ($30 million) is less than a third of the cost of lost productivity from a single day shut down of federal offices in Washington DC due to snow ($100 million).
The latest telework savings numbers are summarized here (these may not match those in the white papers as they have been updated with recent data).
For details about how these telework savings were calculated, and for similar information regarding telework in the U.K. and Canada, download our free white papers.
Additional Information on Telework / Telecommuting Trends / Statistics / Costs & Benefits
- Download Federal Telework — Obstacles and Opportunities (released to public December 2013)
- Download Federal Telework—Return on Taxpayer Investment (September 2013)
- Download The Bottom Line on Telework for the Thurston (WA) Region State and Local Government (Released to public December 2013)
- Download The Bottom Line on Telework – California State Workforce (September 2011)
- Download The State of Telework in the US – Five Year Trend and Forecast (June 2011)
- Download The Bottom Line on Telework In Canada (May 2011)
- Download The Shifting Nature of Work In The UK (May 2011)
- Download Results-Based Management – Unlock Talent, Increase Productivity (September 2010)
- Download Telework: The Bottom Line Benefits (US)(May 2010)
Reporters: We are constantly updating our database of over 4,000 documents on telework, office hoteling, activity-based work, co-working, work at home, and other emerging workplace strategies, and workplace flexibility. Please call or email for the latest data or for additional information (kate-at-globalworkplaceanalytics.com, 760-703-0377 Pacific Time).
About: Kate Lister is president of Global Workplace Analytics, a consulting and research firm that focuses on the business case for emerging workplace strategies. Global Workplace Analytics is based in San Diego, California.