Out of Control Policy Blog

Not so keen on telecommuting, after all?

    One-quarter of the U.S. work force could be doing their jobs from home if all those able to telecommute chose to do so, according to a study on Wednesday which said many still elect to work at the office.

    All those people working from home could translate into annual gasoline savings of $3.9 billion, according to the National Technology Readiness Survey.

    The study found that 2 percent of U.S. workers telecommute full-time and another 9 percent do so part-time.
    But another 14 percent of workers have the option of telecommuting, or have jobs conducive to the practice but choose not to, the study found.

    The numbers suggest that many people would rather work at the office even if their job allowed telecommuting, said Professor P.K. Kannan, of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, which sponsored the study with Rockbridge Associates Inc., a Great Falls, Virginia research firm.

    "That seems to suggest that even if employers were to say tomorrow that everybody had the option of telecommuting and you would save a lot of gas, that's not going to happen," Kannan said.

Sure, not everyone, perhaps not even most would telecommute if given the option, but that doesn't mean we should assume workers aren't interested in it and leave it at that. In most of the top 50 metro areas telecommuting already tops transit commuting and, apart from driving alone, it was the only commute mode to gain market share from 1980 to 2000. The evidence is pretty clear that the practice has continued to grow since 2000.

According to one recent survey, 80 percent of San Diego area folks who don't telecommute say they would if given the chance. Do I think 80 percent of those surveyed really would telecommute? No way, but it still shows there's pretty strong interest. And even if only, say, 20 percent really did end up working from home that would still make a big difference.

According to the National Technology Readiness Survey, of those who telecommute, most only do so one, two, or three days a week. But people should only do it as often as they want to, and the more people learn about part week (or even part day) telecommuting, the better.

My hunch is that many managers and employees quickly dismiss the idea because they assume telecommuting is an all-or-nothing choice. Few people will be able to ditch the office entirely, but as more people realize that telecommuting frequency can vary tremendously more will give telecommuting another look and figure out the best way to personalize the process of work.

Article here; thanks to Bobby B. for the tip.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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