With the onset of the corona-virus (COVID-19) in the US, increasing numbers of people are working from home. While many, indeed most, jobs don’t allow for home-based employment, both new technology (e-mail, video conferencing, etc.) and public health concerns are compelling increasing numbers of employers to permit their workers to telecommute/work-from-home. In fact, long before the COVID-19 pandemic, ever greater numbers of U.S. workers have been working from their homes. One source notes that between 2005 and 2017, the number of people telecommuting grew by 159 percent. Prior to corona-virus, about 4.7 million people in the U.S. telecommuted. That number is expected to dramatically increase in 2020.
Benefits and Liabilities of Telecommuting
Telecommuting offers a number of benefits. In her article, “Benefits of Telecommuting for The Future Of Work,” Andrea Loubier reports that productivity receives a boost from those who telecommute because telecommuters are less distracted and more task focused. “With none of the distractions from a traditional office setting, telecommuting drives up employee efficiency. It allows workers to retain more of their time in the day and adjust to their personal mental and physical well-being needs that optimize productivity. Removing something as simple as a twenty minute commute to work can make a world of difference. If you are ill, telecommuting allows one to recover faster without being forced to be in the office.”
Telecommuting offers workers flexibility that they otherwise wouldn’t have. Many workers are able to organize their work with greater efficiency, deliberately integrate non-work tasks into their daily schedules. For older workers, telecommuting allows many to remain in the workforce longer. Some studies indicate that working from home also reduces employee turnover and increases company loyalty. For employers telecommuting also reduces costs, including costs associated with office space, employee hiring (due to reduced turnover), office supplies, equipment, etc.
Despite the advantages of telecommuting, working from home (or working anywhere off-site) also has disadvantages. For some, distraction isn’t decreased by working at home; it’s increased. Working from home can also be isolating and reduce the social rewards of the non-home workplace. Jobs that require building and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships are not well suited for telecommuting. As Mark Leibovich writes in “Working From Home in Washington? Not So Great,” “So much of what we do is just looking someone in the eye,” “When you can see a facial expression or body language, you get a much better sense if you’re making your case. It can be much more challenging to convey urgency remotely.”
Telecommuting Statistics at a Glance
Below are some statistics about telecommuting as reported by Flexjobs:
- 3.3 million full-time professionals, excluding volunteers and the self-employed, consider their home as their primary place of work.
- Telecommuters save between $600 and $1,000 on annual dry cleaning expenses, more than $800 on coffee and lunch expenses, enjoy a tax break of about $750, save $590 on their professional wardrobe, save $1,120 on gas, and avoid over $300 dollars in car maintenance costs.
- Telecommuters save 260 hours by not commuting on a daily basis.
- Work from home programs help businesses save about $2,000 per year per person and reduce turnover by 50 percent.
- Typical telecommuters are college graduates of about 49 years old and work with a company with fewer than 100 employees.
- Remote workers are satisfied with the company they work for (73 percent) and feel that their managers are concerned about their well-being and morale (56 percent).
- For every one real work-from-home job, there are 60 job scams.
- Most telecommuters (53 percent) work more than 40 hours per week.
- Telecommuters work harder to create a friendly, cooperative, and positive work environment for themselves and their teams.
- Work-from-home professionals (82 percent) were able to lower their stress levels by working remotely. 80 percent have improved morale, 70 percent increase productivity, and 69 percent miss fewer days from work.
- Half of the U.S. workforce has jobs that are compatible with remote work.
- Remote workers enjoy more sleep (45 percent), eat healthier (42 percent), and get more physical exercise (35 percent).
- Telecommuters are 50 percent less likely to quit their job.
- When looking at in-office workers and telecommuters, 45 percent of telecommuters love their job, while 24 percent of in-office workers love their job.
- Four in 10 freelancers have completed projects completely from home.
“Benefits of Telecommuting for The Future Of Work,” Andrea Loubier , Forbes July 20, 2017
“What is Telecommuting?” The Balance Career
“The Growing Army of Americans Who Work From Home,” Karsten Strauss Forbes, June 22, 2017
“Working From Home in Washington? Not So Great,” By Mark Leibovich, New York Times, March 18, 2020