Telecommuting Trend Data (updated July, 2018)
–Please cite GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com when using this data–
Below are the latest available statistics on the work-at-home/telework population in the U.S. based on an analysis of 2005-2016 American Community Survey (US Census Bureau) data conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. Similar state and county data are available through 2016. Data for 2017 will be available in the Fall.
The American Community Survey (ACS) derives its data on work-at-home from the question: What was your primary means of transportation to work during the survey week? “Worked at home” is one of the choices. Therefore, all we know about this population is that they worked primarily at home, which we assume means at least half-time.
Though often used interchangeably, ‘telework’ is defined as the substitution of technology for travel, while telecommuting is more narrowly defined as the substitution of technology for commuter travel. Thus if someone takes work home after being at the office it is considered telework but not telecommuting, and if someone works at home instead of driving to an office they are telecommuting. Both terms were coined by Jack Nilles in the 1970s. Note: many people and organizations are moving away from both terms in favor of distributed work, mobile work, remote work, smart working (UK), and workshifting (Canada).By the way, if you’re confused by all the conflicting numbers you read about telework, join the club. We explain the problem here.
Summary of telecommuting trends:
- Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 140% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce or the self-employed.
- 4.3 million employees (3.2% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.
- From 2015 to 1016:
- The employee population as a whole (not including work-at-home) grew by .9% from 2015 to 2016.
- The self-employed population grew by 2.4% (not including home-based) and the home-based self-employed population grew by 7.3%.*
- Almost all of the growth in self-employment since 2005 is among the home-based incorporated businesses (up 43% from 2005 to 2016)
- The telecommuter population grew by 11.7%, the largest year over year growth since 2008.
- Forty percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago. Still, only 7% make it available to most of their employees.
- Larger companies are most likely to offer telecommuting options to most of their employees.
- New England and Mid-Atlantic region employers are the most likely to offer telecommuting options.
- Full-time employees are four times more likely to have work-at-home options than part-time workers.
- Non-union workers are twice as likely to have access to telecommuting, but union employee access is growing rapidly.
While there is no Census Bureau or government produced data provides additional granularity on the frequency of telework, Global Workplace Analytics’ research finds that:
- 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency
- 80% to 90% of the US workforce says they would like to telework at least part-time. Two to three days a week seems to be the sweet spot that allows for a balance of concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office).
- Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile. Studies repeatedly show they are not at their desk 50-60% of the time.
- A typical telecommuter is college-educated, 45 years old or older, and earns an annual salary of $58,000 while working for a company with more than 100 employees. 75% of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 per year, putting them in the upper 80th percentile of all employees, home or office-based.
* Note: It is critical to separate the self-employed from the employee telework and telecommuter population for the purpose of understanding trends as they are moving in opposite directions. About 15% of the self-employed population work primarily from home (2016 data). That population (self-employed not including home-based) grew by only 7.9% since between 2005 and 2016. Over the same period, the self-employed home-based business population declined by 26.5% but the incorporated portion of the home-based population grew by 43.2%.
Who Telecommutes? Telecommuter Demographics (updated 3-15-2016):
- A typical telecommuter is older (50+), college educated, salaried, non-union employee.
- Relative to the total population, a disproportionate share of employees in the following occupations telecommute (in order of largest disproportion to smallest):
- Computer and Mathematical
- Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations
- Farming, Fishing, and Forestry
- Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations
- Legal Occupations
- Community and Social Service Occupations
- Architecture and Engineering Occupations
- Business and Financial
- Using home as a ‘reasonable accommodation’ per the Americans with Disabilities Act, 463,000 disabled employees regularly work from home (7.1% of the disabled).
- Non-exempt employees are far less likely to work at home on a regular or ad hoc basis than salaried 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 March, 2016)
- 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 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).
For details about how these telework savings were calculated, and for similar information regarding telework in the Federal Government, U.K. and Canada, download our free white papers.
Additional Information on Telework / Telecommuting Trends / Statistics / Costs & Benefits
Reporters Only: 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 about:
- State and local telecommuting numbers
- Telecommuter demographics (gender, age, education, private/public sector, industry, income, etc.)
- Global and U.S. drivers of telework
- Obstacles to telework
- Advantages and disadvantages for employers/employees
- Industry contacts/potential interviewees
- Global and regional trends
- Workplace flexibility and its impact on employee well-being
- Who wants to telework, who can, who offers it, where teleworkers work
- Other agile and distributed workplace trends
Kate can be reached at kate-at-globalworkplaceanalytics.com or 760-703-0377 Pacific Time. Again that number is for reporters only. If you are not a reporter, keep reading before you make contact.
If you are a student looking for additional information, take note: We do not take kindly to being interrupted with requests from students who have not bothered to do their own research or try to find what they need among our free resources. If you have tried your best and still cannot find what you need, you are welcome to write to us, tell us who you are, what you want (not, for example, “Can you send me citations for all the statistics on your website?”), and why you are asking. If we can find time between client work, we will respond. Telling us how urgently you need the information because your paper or thesis is due tomorrow will not help your cause, nor will incomplete or incoherent requests. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way too. Sorry if we sound grouchy but you’d be amazed at calls and emails we get from students.
About Global Workplace Analytics
Global Workplace Analytics is a research-based consulting firm that helps organizations quantify the impact of workplace change on productivity, employee well-being, and other critical people and business metrics. Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, is one of the foremost authorities on how, when, and where people are working.
The firm’s research is informed by a proprietary database of over 4,000 case studies, academic papers, and other related documents. Their unique ROI calculators have been used by hundreds of organizations to estimate the employer, employee, and the environmental impact of various workplace strategies. In the spirit of sharing, they make many of their calculators and much of their research available for free on this website.
Kate has written or co-authored six books and hundreds of articles. She is a sought-after speaker and an active member of IFMA’s Workplace Evolutionaries (WE) leadership and research teams. Kate resides in San Diego CA and teases that she charges clients extra if she has to travel anywhere that’s too cold, too hot, too humid, or too buggy. For more details, please visit the About page.
Kate is available for interviews and to help reporters identify additional resources. She can be reached at 760-703-0377 (Pacific Time) or Kate@GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com.
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