Maybe you call it working from home, mobile work, remote work, or even telework. Technically, experts define “telecommuting” as the substitution of technology for commuter travel. In other words, rather than drive, carpool, or take public transportation to a facility controlled by their employer, employees use telephones, computers, the Internet, etc. to work offsite (often at home or perhaps at a coffee shop). We’ve already posted a quick checklist of legal concerns for employers on this topic. Here we’re focusing more on the bigger picture to share some telecommuting trends and statistics that employers should keep in mind.
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Let’s start with some overall numbers (for the United States).
According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce report by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs: “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.”
From 2015 to 2016, the number of telecommuters increased by almost 12%.
Larger companies are more likely to permit employees to telecommute than smaller ones, but only 7% of U.S. employers offer flexible workplace options.
While men and women are about equally likely to work remotely, telecommuting is more common among employees over 35 years old. Perhaps surprisingly, it is most prevalent among Baby Boomers. For a number of reasons, not having to travel to work on a regular basis allows people to remain in the workforce longer.
Workers with higher levels of formal education (those with bachelor’s or graduate degrees) are more likely to telecommute.
On average, telecommuters earn about $4,000 more per year than non-telecommuters (among workers making $100,000 or less annually). And a majority of them work more than 40 hours per week.
Per the 2017 State of Telecommuting report: “In more than half of the top U.S. metros, telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice. It has grown far faster than any other commute mode.”
Overall, small and mid-sized cities appear to utilize more telecommuting than larger cities.
Interestingly, the top 5 telecommuting metro areas all feature prominent public universities:
- Boulder, Colorado – 8.5% of workforce telecommutes (University of Colorado)
- Corvallis, OR – 6.9% (Oregon State University)
- Raleigh, NC – 6.2% (North Carolina State University)
- Charlottesville, VA – 5.5% (University of Virginia)
- Austin-Round Rock, TX – 5.4% (University of Texas)
Other large metro areas with a relatively high percentage of telecommuters are Denver (5.1%), Tampa-St. Petersburg (4.8%), Atlanta (4.6%), and San Diego (4.5%).
Telecommuting has grown the most in the Northeast and very little in the Southeast. Located between those regions, Chattanooga, Tennessee experienced the highest percentage growth of telecommuting from 2005-2015 at 325%.
Telecommuting Trends by Industry
Telecommuting is not limited to information-based industries. The largest share of telecommuters (17%) occurs in the professional services industry, followed by healthcare and social assistance (11.6%) and finance and insurance (9.7%). But manufacturing has the fourth highest percentage of telecommuters (8.5%).
It does not look like these telecommuting trends (i.e., gradual growth across industries) will significantly reverse themselves any time soon.
There are some anecdotal reports of companies bringing telecommuters back into the workplace. And data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a small drop in the percentage of U.S. workers who worked at home from 2015 to 2016. But that number rebounded in 2017.
There are some relatively extreme growth projections out there. Here’s one predicting that 30% of U.S. private sector workers will telecommute by 2019! Here’s another claiming that 50% of the U.S. workforce will work remotely by 2020!
In sum, the American workplace will continue to change dramatically (as it always has). Many jobs no longer need to be performed on-site. Some people are great employees but logistically can’t make it to work every day. At the same time, some businesses can accommodate telecommuting and others can’t. And there indeed are valid concerns, tradeoffs, and obstacles in many situations.
If these telecommuting trends intrigue you regarding your business, make sure to learn more through our free webinar: “The Law of Telecommuting”.