New estimates from the US Census bureau, published last week, show that 8 million workers in the US are now primarily working from home, making telecommuting the country’s second most common way of getting to work after driving, displacing public transportation for the first time, Governing magazine reported on Friday:
Last year, an estimated 5.2 percent of workers in the American Community Survey reported that they usually telecommute, a figure that’s climbed in recent surveys. Meanwhile, the share of employees taking public transportation declined slightly to 5 percent and has remained mostly flat over the longer term.
The number of Americans telecommuting at least occasionally is much larger than what’s depicted in the federal data. That’s because the Census survey asks respondents to report how they “usually” go to work, meaning those working from home only a day or two each week aren’t counted. A 2016 Gallup survey found that 43 percent of employees spent at least some time working remotely. …
Those working from home at the highest rate — 11.7 percent — in the Census survey were classified as professional, scientific, management, administrative and waste management services workers. Other industries where telework is about as common include finance, insurance, real estate, agriculture and the information sector.
Last year’s American Community Survey data also showed that the number of US employees working remotely was on the rise: An analysis of that data found that 2.6 percent were working entirely from home—more than the number who walk and bike to work combined. Other surveys last year and this year have also found more Americans working from home, particularly workers over the age of 55. Employers see this trend continuing for the foreseeable future, and many are changing their policies around flexibility and remote work in response to greater demand for these options from employees in critical talent segments. Most US companies, however, don’t have explicit remote work policies, a survey earlier this year indicated.
The second annual Future Workforce Report from the freelance hiring platform Upwork finds that even though most US managers expect more of their team members to work remotely in the coming years, most also say their organization lacks a specific policy on remote work:
Sixty-four percent of hiring managers feel that their company has the resources and processes in place to support a remote workforce, yet the majority (57 percent) lack a remote work policy. …
Over half (55%) of hiring managers agree that remote work has become more commonplace as compared to three years ago. Five times as many hiring managers expect more of their team to work remotely in the next ten years than expect less. In the next ten years, hiring managers predict that 38 percent of their full-time, permanent employees will work predominantly remotely.
Among those companies that do have remote work policies, many respondents indicated that these policies are evolving to become more flexible and inclusive, which is helping them attract talent in a tight labor market:
Nearly half (45%) of hiring managers said their company’s work-from-home policy has changed in the past five years, with 60 percent saying it has become more lenient and inclusive. This increased inclusivity is making it easier for companies to find the talent they need. Over half (52%) of hiring managers that work at companies with work-from-home policies believe hiring has become easier in the past year.
FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics co-authored a study on the state of telecommuting in the US, with the following key findings:
- 3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half of the time, up from 1.8 million in 2005 (a 115 percent increase since 2005).
- The average telecommuter is 46 years of age or older, has at least a bachelor’s degree, and earns a higher median salary than an in-office worker.
- Roughly the same population of women and men telecommute.
- Telecommuting is more common among employees over 35 years of age and most common among Baby Boomers.
- In more than half of the top U.S. metro areas telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice. It has grown far faster than any other commute mode.
Kathryn Vasel of CNN digs deeper into the study, which also identifies the industries, professions, and geographic areas in which telecommuting is most popular:
In the era of the wherever workforce, people are working at the gym, at upscale restaurants, and at an increasingly rich variety of flexible coworking spaces. But now that summer is in full swing, surely it’s time for these wired warriors to unplug, disconnect, and head for the beach to relax.
Just kidding; they’re working there, too. The Wall Street Journal’s Sue Shellenbarger heads to the beach clubs of Long Island to find that patrons at these establishments are increasingly demanding the ability to get online and do some work from their cabanas:
Sunny Atlantic has upgraded its free Wi-Fi three times in the past two years, partly in response to members who want to work. Club members pay a seasonal fee for cabanas—simple structures that typically include showers, refrigerators and a small patio. Cabana fees, which include club membership, range from $2,980 to more than $10,000 for the season for a 13-by-18-foot unit on the beach with an ocean view, says Howard Taub, managing partner of Sunny Atlantic. At least 20 of Sunny Atlantic’s 1,200 members work regularly from the club, he says.
SHRM conducted its 20th annual employee benefits survey this year, and prepared a report detailing how the benefits landscape has evolved over the past two decades. SHRM’s Stephen Miller highlights the report’s key findings:
2016 Employee Benefits shows that telecommuting benefits have seen a threefold increase since 1996, when just 20 percent of survey respondents worked at organizations that offered telecommuting. Today, 60 percent do. … While telecommuting is becoming the new norm, job sharing—in which two or more employees divide the responsibilities and compensation for one full-time job—has seen a steep decline in popularity. Just 10 percent of respondents’ organizations now offer job sharing vs. 24 percent in 1996. …
Compared with 20 years ago, many more organizations are providing wellness resources and information (72 percent this year, up from 54 percent), according to the report. Other common wellness benefits in 2016, provided by more than one-half of respondents’ organizations, include worksite wellness programs and onsite seasonal flu vaccinations. Twenty percent of respondents levy a smoking surcharge in their health care plans.
Some benefits have decreased in popularity over the past 20 years, including credit union membership, employee stock purchase plans, parking subsidies, and matching charitable contributions. In the past five years, various types of cash bonuses have become markedly more common.
On the whole, the number and variety of benefits on offer has exploded since SHRM began conducting this survey, Jena McGregor remarks in the Washington Post. Whereas SHRM tracked 60 benefits in 1996 and 219 in 2006, this year’s survey covers nearly 350:
A new study from CIPD unpacking the thoughts and concerns of London’s workforce suggests that greater work flexibility can not only improve job satisfaction and work-life balance, but the ability to handle various life pressures as well. The research indicates that workers who are allowed greater flexibility with regards to how and where they do their jobs “are much less likely to report being under excessive pressure than people who don’t work flexibly, with 29% of flexible workers saying they are under excessive pressure every day or once or twice a week compared with 42% of people who don’t work flexibly.”
Only 52 percent of the London workers surveyed by CIPD reported that they have the ability to work flexibly, however, despite the fact that employees working in the city face longer commute times than anywhere else in the UK, and that 19 percent of the commuters surveyed indicated that getting to and from work was one of the top causes of stress in their lives.
And overall, for those who have been allowed greater flexibility:
At Pacific Standard, Alana Massey argues that more people should be working from home, and that employers should embrace that change:
Last year, a Stanford University study of Chinese travel agency CTrip took 503 call center employees and divided them in half, one group working from home four days a week with one day in the office and the other half remaining in the call center as a control group for nine months. The group that worked at home demonstrated a 13 percent increase in performance and a nine percent increase in overall time spent on their work calls, due in large part to the reduction in time needed to take breaks and a decrease in sick days. Yet the study also found that those working from home were less likely to be promoted than their in-office counterparts, indicating that management continues to value hours clocked at one’s desk over actual worker output.
Worker output will likely remain the primary concern of companies when it comes to whether or not they’ll allow partial or full-time work from home, but it has cost-saving environmental implications as well. … The Stanford study also indicated that CTrip saved around $1,900 per employee over the course of the nine-month study due to reduced needs for office space and lower rates of attrition.
There’s also the fact that most employees can’t stand commuting. In my own work, I’ve found that commute time is the top “personal” driver of disengagement. I think a lot more work could be done remotely, especially as work-life integration overtakes work-life balance as the conventional approach. You just need to learn to maximize your in office time for network and team building.
Telecommuting also offers a way to work around a major challenge in the labor market.