December 30, 2014
woman using mobile phone

An increasing percentage of the American population works from home. Many fall into the category of self-employed entrepreneurs running businesses providing services over the Internet, or they may telecommute for multinational firms. Currently, approximately 30 million Americans work at home at least once per week. According to a study from Telework Research Network, the number of individuals working from home one time per week will grow by 63 percent over the next five years.

Moreover, another three million U.S. professionals do not have an office other than their home, and approximately 55 percent of them report being quite happy about it.

Telecommuting has become increasingly attractive and accessible with the advent of new technologies, such as telepresence. In addition, the expansion of telecommuting has connected offices and communities worldwide. Television commercials have captured the new reality, such as the ad showing technology solution providers consulting with a team of scientists working to design a new system to bring water into drought stricken regions in Africa. They chat effortlessly over VoIP systems, some of them doing so from home, and suddenly the global village takes on new meaning.

Some studies have shown that including home-based work for 50 percent of the workweek represents savings of over $10,000 per worker per year for some companies. The savings come from higher productivity, lower absenteeism, lower facility expenses and reduced turnover. The employees garner from $1,600 to $6,800 in personal savings and see at least 15 days worth of time they once used to commute to work.

In the same studies, over 46% of workers with the ability to telecommute reported being very satisfied with their jobs, contrasted to 27 percent of those who work in an office 5 days per week. More than 66 percent of companies reported higher productivity from their teleworkers. The contributing elements were more effective time management, fewer interruptions from co-workers, flexible hours, feelings of empowerment, and in some cases, the desire to work longer hours. The home office is always open.

Telework Research Network showed one electronic retailer gained 35 percent in increased productivity when it introduced a flexible work program. A U.K. telecom estimated that productivity increased by 20 percent because of telecommuting. And, 90 percent of home-based workers reported being more satisfied with their work/life balance. This was true even in cases in which those workers put in more hours.

Home-based workers frequently produce even when they are sick. In addition, they return to their desk more quickly after surgery or pregnancy. An added bonus is that they can schedule and manage personal appointments, such as an appliance delivery, cable install, or interior design consultation, while still completing their daily work.

The top four reasons cited by employees (both private sector and federal government) to work from home include:

1. Avoid commute (63–71%),
2. Greater flexibility (49–66%),
3. More productive
4. Save money (28–31%).

In large metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, commuters must allow almost twice as long for travel time during peak hours in order to arrive on time. For commuters who get stuck in traffic jams each day, the time spent in their cars can cut their productivity by up to 50 percent. Nationwide, commuters log 4.2 billion hours driving to work annually. According to Telework Research, this drains an estimated $78 billion of productive work from the economy. In addition, traffic jams waste almost 3 billion gallons of gasoline and add 58 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment annually.

Although Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s chief, may have recently cut back on telecommuting at the Internet giant, a significant number of telecommuting-friendly corporations are in fact technology based. The advent and rise of the Internet and mobile devices has enhanced the ability to perform many responsibilities on the go or at home. In the future, this trend will extend into more industries such as freelancers, graphic designers, writers and programming.