The Entrepreneur - Telecommuting Trends: Barriers to Greater Growth

Spring 2013

Telecommuting continues to grow in the United States with management-level personnel accounting for much of the gain in recent years, according to statistics compiled by the Telework Research Network, a San Diego, CA consulting and research firm. The biggest barrier to telecommuting, by a wide margin, is management fear and mistrust.

According to the report, The State of Telework in the U.S., which is based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics, key trends include:

  • 45 percent of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least part-time telework.
  • Of the total workforce, 50 million U.S. employees hold jobs that are telework compatible, although only 2.9 million consider home their primary place of work (2.3 percent of the workforce).
graph showing yearly percent growth in work at home
table listing the metro area where Work at Home exceeds commuters
  • Regular telecommuting grew by 61 percent between 2005 and 2009. During the same period, home-based self employment grew by 1.7 percent.
  • Based on current trends, with no growth acceleration, regular telecommuters will total 4.9 million by 2016, a 69 percent increase from the current level, but well below other forecasts.
  • 76 percent of telecommuters work for private sector companies, down from 81 percent in 2005. The difference is largely attributable to increased work at home (WAH) jobs among state and federal workers.
  • The typical telecommuter is a 49-year-old, college educated, salaried, non-union employee in a management or professional role, earning $58,000 a year at a company with more than 100 employees.
  • Relative to the total population, a disproportionate share of management, professional, sales and office workers telecommute.
  • Non-exempt employees are far less likely to work at home on a regular or ad hoc basis, than salaried employees.
  • Over 75 percent of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 per year, putting them in the upper 80th percentile relative to all employees.
  • Larger companies are more likely to allow telecommuting than smaller ones.
  • Non-union organizations are more likely to offer telecommuting than those with unions.
  • In a quarter of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas, more people now telecommute than use public transportation as their principal means of transportation to work.
  • The region with the fastest percentage growth in regular employee telecommuting was Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (CA), posting a 77 percent increase since 2005 (based on growth relative to the total local population and among populations with over one million workers).
  • Among the 124 metropolitan areas evaluated, 34 percent showed greater five-year growth in regular telecommuters than the national growth.

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