Telecommuting Trend Data (updated August 16, 2019)
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Below are the latest available statistics on the work-at-home/telework population in the U.S. based on an analysis of 2005-2017 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 159% since 2005, more than 11x faster than the rest of the workforce and nearly 50x 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 2017:
- The employee population (not including work-at-home or the self-employed) grew by 14.1%
- The self-employed population as a whole grew by only 1.2%, but segments of this group showed significant growth. The large majority of the self-employed operate incorporated businesses (77%). This segment fell in size for both the home-based and non-home-based businesses (.6% and 1.2% respectively). The incorporated portion of the self-employed population, grew by 47.4% for home-based businesses, and 11.2% 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
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