Telecommuting Trend Data (updated August 16, 2019)
—You do not need permission to use this data provided you cite GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com as the source—
Below are the latest available statistics on the work-at-home/telework population in the U.S. based on an analysis of 2005-2018 (released in 2019) American Community Survey (US Census Bureau) data conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. New numbers, for the prior year, are released each 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 remote work, distributed work, mobile 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 173% since 2005, 11% faster than the rest of the workforce and nearly 47x faster than the self-employed population.
- 4.7 million employees (3.4% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.
- From 2005 to 2018:
- The employee population (not including work-at-home or the self-employed) grew by 15.3%
- The self-employed population as a whole grew by only 3.7%, but growth within this group varied greatly. The large majority of the self-employed operate unincorporated businesses (63%). This segment hardly grew at all (.8%). The incorporated portion of the self-employed population grew by 48.2% for home-based businesses, and 11.8% for non-home-based businesses.
- 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 access is growing rapidly.
While there is no government data that offers 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 40% of the workforce works remotely 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 desks are vacant 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.
Who Telecommutes? Telecommuter Demographics (updated 3-15-2016):
- 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 August 16, 2019)
- 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:
- Businesses would save and average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter 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 D.C. 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 for Reporters
We are constantly updating our database of over 5,000 documents on telework, office hoteling, activity-based work, co-working, remote work, work-from-home, and other emerging workplace strategies. 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 Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, 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.
A note to students:
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 tried to find what they need by combing this site and downloading 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.
Our research is informed by a proprietary database of over 5,000 case studies, academic papers, and other documents. Our 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, we make many of our calculators and much of our 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 and What We Do pages.
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.
Telecommuting sounds like a great way to beat traffic – but how do you convince your boss it’s a good option? 10News is exploring solutions for Making It in San Diego with telecommuting expert Kate Lister and Kalyna Astrinos 10News. #MakingItinSD
Posted by 10News – ABC San Diego KGTV on Wednesday, August 1, 2018
-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
Free 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
Available for purchase 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)