Commentary

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 an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.

Ted is the director of Can We Take a Joke?, a Korchula Productions feature documentary about the collision between comedy and outrage culture featuring comedians such as Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Jim Norton, Lisa Lampanelli, and Adam Carolla. Ted is producing Little Pink House, a Korchula Productions feature narrative about about Susette Kelo's historic fight to save her beloved home and neighborhood. The film stars two-time Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener (Capote, Being John Malkovich, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and Emmy nominee Jeanne Tripplehorn (Big Love, The Firm, Basic Instinct).

Ted produced the award-winning shorts The Conversation and Cute Couple. He is an executive producer on the feature documentary Honor Flight, and produced the film's first trailer, which attracted more than 4.5 million views. The Honor Flight premiere attracted an audience of more than 28,000 and set the Guinness World Record for largest film screening in history.

Ted is a founding member of ReasonTV, where he produced hundreds of videos and documentary shorts, including Raiding California, which introduced a nationwide audience to the Charles Lynch medical marijuana case.

Ted is co-creator of The Drew Carey Project, a series of documentary shorts hosted by Drew Carey, and creator of the comedic series Don't Cops Have Better Things to Do? and Nanny of the Month.

His ReasonTV contributions have been featured by The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, and on the he John Stossel Special Bailouts and Bull, a first-of-its-kind joint project between ABC News and ReasonTV.

During Ted's tenure, ReasonTV received the Templeton Freedom Award for Innovative Media and in 2008 Businessweek recognized his short Where's My Bailout? (created with Courtney Balaker) as among the best of bailout humor.

Prior to joining Reason, Ted spent five years producing at ABC Network News, producing hour-long specials and 20/20 segments on topics ranging from free speech to addiction.

Ted's written work has appeared in dozens of publications, including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Reason magazine, The Washington Post, and USA TODAY. He is the author or co-author of 11 studies on topics ranging from urban policy to global trade, and his research has been presented before organizations such as the Mont Pelerin Society and the American Economic Association.

Ted is co-author (with Sam Staley) of the book The Road More Traveled (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), which Chapman University's Joel Kotkin says "should be required reading, not only for planners and their students, but for anyone who loves cities and wants them to thrive."

Ted has appeared on many radio and television programs, including ABC World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News, and has interviewed hundreds of thinkers and innovators, ranging from X Prize recipient and private spaceflight pioneer Burt Rutan to Templeton Prize-winning biologist and philosopher Francisco Ayala.

Ted graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Irvine with degrees in political science and English.