Note to Reporters—March 2020:
Kate Lister, has been studying workplace trends and consulting with workplace leaders for more than a decade. She is a recognized expert on the prevalence and impact of work-at-home/telework programs. She is the author of several books on the the topic including Undress for Success: The Naked Truth About Working From Home and a chapter from the just-released peer-reviewed book edited by John Messenger, Telework in the 21st Century (Edward Elgar, 2019).
During this unsettled period, she’s happy to share what she knows about:
• The impact of the coronavirus/Covid-19 on remote work
• Congressman Connolly’s latest Telework Bill H.R.6108 – 116th Congress
• The federal government’s recall of teleworkers at SSA and other agencies.
• The impact of telecommuting on people, planet, and profit
• Remote work drivers and holdbacks
Click here for our latest press releases on Covid-19 and its impact on public and private sector telecommuting.
If you are on deadline call 760-703-0377 (during a decent hour, Pacific Time), otherwise please email kate-at-globalworkplaceanalytics.com.
Telecommuting Trend Data (updated March 13, 2020)
Note: You do not need permission to use this data provided you cite GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com as the source. A link would be appreciated and we do say thank you by making sure our social network sees your work.
Below are the latest available statistics on the work-at-home/telework population in the U.S. based on our analysis of 2005-2018 American Community Survey (ACS, a US Census Bureau product). The current data, the best there is, was released in 2019. New ACS numbers, for the prior year, are released each Fall.
The American Community Survey derives its data on the work-at-home population from the single 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 at home half-time or more during the previous week.
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’s considered telework but not telecommuting. If someone works at home instead of driving to an office they are telecommuting but not necessarily teleworking. Both terms were coined by Jack Nilles in the 1970s.
Important point: many people and organizations are moving away from both the term telework and telecommuting in favor of remote work, distributed work, mobile work, smart working (UK), and workshifting (Canada).
More important point: If you’re confused by all the conflicting numbers you read about telework, join the club. We explain the problem and try to offer an clearer view here.
Most important point: Unless noted, the numbers below do not include the self-employed.
Summary of Telecommuting Trends
How many employees work from home?
• 5 million employee (3.6% of the workforce) currently work-at-home half-time or more [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 American Community Service (ACS) data]
• Regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005, 11% faster than the rest of the workforce (which grew 15%) and nearly 47x faster than the self-employed population (which grew by 4%) [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 ACS data]
• 43% of employees work remotely with some frequency [Gallup State of the American Workplace 2016]
How many people could work-from-home?
• 56% of employees have a job where at least some of what they do could be done remotely [Global Workplace Analytics analysis of BLS data, 2017]
• 62% of employees say they could work remotely [Citrix 2019 poll]
• Studies repeatedly show desks are vacant 50-60% of the time.
How many people want to work from home?
• 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time [State of Remote Work 2019, Owl Labs]
• Only 12% of federal employees say they would not want to work from home at least some of the time [Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey 2018]
• 35% of employees would change jobs for opportunity to work remotely full time (47% of Millennials and 31% of boomers); 37% would do so to work remotely some of the time (50% of Millennials and 33% of Boomers) [State of the American Workforce, Gallup, 2016]
• Flexibility is one of the highest ranked benefits by Millennials, even higher than student loan or tuition reimbursement. It ranked high for Boomers too although the percentages were 15-20 points lower. [State of the American Workforce, Gallup, 2017]
• More than a third of workers would take a pay cut of up to 5% in exchange for the option to work remotely at least some of the time; a quarter would take a 10% pay cut; 20% would take an even greater cut. [State of Remote Work 2019, Owl Labs]
What are the demographics of people who work-from-home?
• 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. [Global Workplace Analytics’ special analysis of 2016 ACS data]
• The chart below shows the percentage of people who work-at-home by industry. [Global Workplace Analytics’ special analysis of 2016 ACS data]
• 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).
Who offers remote work?
• Forty percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than did five years ago. But only 7% make it available to most or all of their employees. [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of BLS data]
• 69% of employers offer remote work on an ad hoc basis to at least some employees, 42% offer it part time, 27% offer it full time [SHRM 2019 Employee Benefits Survey]
• Larger companies are most likely to offer telecommuting options to most of their employees. [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2017 ACS data]
• New England and Mid-Atlantic region employers are the most likely to offer telecommuting options. [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2017 ACS data]
• Full-time employees are four times more likely to have work-at-home options than part-time workers. [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2017 ACS data]
• Non-union workers are twice as likely to have access to telecommuting, but union access is growing rapidly. [Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2017 ACS data]
How often do people work from home?
While there is no government data that provides additional granularity on the frequency of telework, we offer the following:
• 3.6% of the workforce works remotely half time or more [Global Workplace Analytics’ special analysis of 2018 ACS data]43% of the workforce works remotely at some frequency [State of the American Workforce, Gallup, 2016]
• 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) [Global Workplace Analytic’s observation of clients and case studies, 2020]
How do employers benefit from remote work?
Based on conservative assumptions, we estimate a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year. The primary savings are the result of increased productivity, lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and better disaster preparedness. Employers can calculate their own potential savings on our free Telework Savings Calculator™ which a report to Congress by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget referred to as “comprehensive and based on solid research.”
How do employees benefit from remote work?
We estimate that employees save between $2,500 and $4,000 per year by working at home half the time. Those savings are primarily due to reduced costs for travel, parking, and food. They are net of additional energy costs and home food costs.
In terms of time, a half-time telecommuter saves the equivalent of 11 work days per year in time they would have otherwise spent commuting. Extreme commuters save more than three times that abount. These estimates assume a 75% reduction in driving on telework days.
Click here for additional benefits for employees who work at home.
How does society and the environment benefit from remote work?
Eliminating or reducing commuter travel is the easiest and most effective way for a company or individual to reduce their carbon footprint. Based on our estimates, if those who have a work-from-home compatible job and a desire to work remotely did so just half the time, the greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent to taking the entire New York State workforce off the road.
Click here for additional benefits of remote work for the community and environment.
Still hungry for information?
Additional Information for Reporters
We are constantly updating our database of over 5,000 documents on telework, activity-based work, co-working, remote work, work-from-home, and other emerging workplace strategies.
Reporters, feel free to call or email for the latest data or for additional information about:
• State and local work-at-home numbers
• Global and regional remote work trends
• Work-from-home demographics (gender, age, education, private/public sector, industry, income, etc.)
• Global and U.S. drivers of telework
• Best practices for work-at-home strategies
• Advantages and disadvantages of telework for employers/employees
• Industry contacts/potential interviewees (employers/employees)
• Workplace flexibility and its impact on employee well-being
• Other future of work trends
Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, can be reached at kate-at-globalworkplaceanalytics.com or 760-703-0377 (Pacific Time).
A note to students:
TL;DR – We will not do you your homework for you.
We do not take kindly to being interrupted with requests from students who have not bothered to do their own research or tried to find what they need by combing this site and downloading our free resources.
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. You can assume we will not respond in such case because, as the saying goes, a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.
But, if you’ve tried your best and still can’t find what you need, you’re welcome to write to us, tell us who you are, what you’re working on, what you want (not, for example, “Can you send me citations for all the statistics on your website?”), and why you’re asking. When we can find time between client work (in other words people who pay us to help), we’ll get back to you. No really, we will.
“Please” and “thank you,” will go a long way toward helping your cause.
Sorry if we’re grouchy, but you ought to see some of the stuff we get from lazy students…
About Global Workplace Analytics and Kate Lister
Kate Lister, is a recognized thought leader on the future or work. She is president of Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) a 13-year-old a research and consulting firm that helps employers understand and prepare for the future of work. Their expertise is focused on workplace, workforce, technology, and other trends that are changing the who, what, when, where, and how of work.
Working with some of the world’s most respected brands, GWA helps make the ‘people, planet, and profit’ business case for workplace change and collaborates to publish a wide range of original and secondary research. In the spirit of sharing, GWA many of calculators and much of its research available for free on this website.
GWA’s proprietary tools include:
• An extensive digital library with over 5,000 research reports, case studies, and other content related to the technologies, trends, and scientific understandings that are transforming the way people work
• A variety of customizable web-based and mobile calculators that estimate the ROI of workplace change
• Model business cases for a wide range of workplace strategies and stakeholders
• Templates for collecting pre- and post-strategy measures of success
GWA’s research has been cited by hundreds of publications including the Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and many others.
She is a member of the strategic advisory board and leadership team of Workplace Evolutionaries (WE), a global group of leading workplace thinkers and doers who are dedicated to “changing the world one workplace at a time.”
Kate has written or co-authored six books and hundreds of articles for major media outlets. Her most recent book contribution was as the writer of the U.S. chapter of a peer-reviewed examination of global remote work trends called “Telework in the 21st Century” (Edward Elgar, 2019).
Kate is a sought-after speaker and an active member of IFMA’s Workplace Evolutionaries (WE) leadership and research teams. Kate lives in a San Diego CA suburb with her husband and three dogs. She teases that she charges clients extra if she has to travel anywhere that’s too cold, too hot, too humid, or too buggy. She offers a discount for fun companies and cool gigs. For more details, please visit the About and What We Do pages.
Kate is available for interviews and will happily help reporters identify additional resources. She can be reached at 760-703-0377 (Pacific Time) or Kate@GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com.
-ACoworking: A Corporate Real Estate Perspective
An unfamiliar concept 10 years ago and poorly understood even now, coworking is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the commercial real estate market. In the few years since the concept began to take hold, the industry has grown to include more than 11,000 shared workspaces around the globe. While major U.S. and U.K. coworking markets are beginning to show signs of maturity, the demand…
-Alternative Workplace Strategies—Fifth Biennial Benchmarking Study
This report summarizes the findings of a survey fielded in 2017. It represents a continuation of a study initiated by an organization known as NewWOW (New Ways of Working) in 2008. With support from Haworth, Inc., similar surveys were fielded by NewWOW again in 2009, 2011, and 2013. The purpose of the survey, from the beginning, has been to benchmark workplace strategies and practices and…
-Flexibility for Volatility: Building a High-Performance Defense Workplace
The defense industry must continuously adapt to new and unpredictable changes– from shifting government mandates to the priorities of new administrations, procurement delays, budget changes, technology advances and global tensions. To capture what is affecting defense contractors today, HOK and Knoll partnered to study the trends driving the modern-day defense workplace. Global Workplace Analytics was enlisted to help with the research and content development. The…
-In Search of Intelligent Space
Download directly from iOffice website. Copy/paste this URL https://www.iofficecorp.com/workplace-intelligence
-Purpose Begets Engagement
While you can't create engagement, you can create meaning for every single job. If you do, engagement will follow.
-Telework in the 21st Century – Perspective from Six Countries
Purchase directly from the publisher. Copy/paste this URL https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/telework-in-the-21st-century
-The Dollars and Sense of Well-Being
An article written Kate Lister for Work Design Magazine on how to quantify the impact of workplace design and work practices on well-being with tips on how to create a culture of well-being.
-The Future of Workplace Experience-Tying it to Business Outcomes
Will changes we make to our workplaces and work practices help attract and retain talent, increase productivity, foster creativity and innovation, reduce costs, boost revenue, or help achieve other business goals? New approaches can answer the question.
-The New Financial Workplace
An HOK paper (with research and content contributions from Global Workplace Analytics) that investigates the forces reshaping the financial industry and how workplace design can position companies for success. As the nature of work continues to change in the financial industry, the workplace is adjusting with it. In the near future, the convergence of technology and financial services could result in financial services companies increasingly adopting…
Federal Telework – Return on Taxpayer Investment
The financial and non-financial impact of telework should and can be measured. One methodology, explained in this paper, estimates that federal telework, effectively implemented, could save taxpayers almost $14 billion a year. That figure was calculated based on a cautious set of assumptions about the impact of telework on real estate, absenteeism, turnover, productivity, transit subsidies, continuity of operations, and healthcare.
Federal Telework – Return on Taxpayer Investment (redacted)
Federal Telework: Obstacles and Opportunities
This report examines how experts in government view the obstacles to telework. Based on their insights, those of industry experts, and our own observations, this paper suggests solutions for overcoming those obstacles.
Federal Telework: Obstacles and Opportunities (redacted)
Results-Based Management-The Key to Unlocking Talent, Increasing Productivity
Recent research shows than 70% of the workforce is not engaged. They’re either wandering around in a fog, or actively undermining their co-workers’ success. They're burned out, disenfranchised, and over 80% are ready to jump ship. Eyeing the end of the recession, employees are no longer happy just to have a job. Boomers who haven’t already made their exit are anticipating it. Gen X-ers watched their workaholic parents, and aren't about to make the same mistakes. Gen…
Results-Based Management-The Key to Unlocking Talent, Increasing Productivity (redacted)
State of Telecommuting in the U.S.
This report focuses solely on full-time employees and does not include data on the self-employed or those who work at home less than half the time. (The entire work-at-home employee population is 10 to 15 times larger than those who do so half-time or more.)
Telecommuting Benefits: The Bottom Line
The purpose of this paper is to quantify the benefits of telecommuting for employers, employees, and the community. Three decades have passed since the concept of telecommuting— the substitution of technology for commuter travel—was conceived. A broad body of evidence now corroborates the many economic, environmental, and societal benefits that researchers predicted. Occasional telecommuting (one day a month) has grown significantly in recent years—increasing 74% from 2005 to 2008, though few companies…
Telecommuting Benefits: The Bottom Line (redacted)
The Bottom Line on Telework for the Thurston Region State and Local Governments
This report offers a data-driven analysis of the potential for telework to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of Thurston WA region state and local government. Based on a conservative set of assumptions drawn from a synthesis of over 4,000 data sources, we calculate that the impact of twice weekly telework by 30% of the region’s public sector workforce could: Save approximately $58 million per…
The Bottom Line on Telework for the Thurston Region State and Local Governments (redacted)