October 1, 2015
According to an analysis of the just-released 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, approximately 3.7 million US employees (2.5 percent of the workforce) called home their primary place of work in 2014. This represents a 6.5 percent increase and the largest year over year growth in the number of people working from home since before the recession. The ACS data is based on a nationwide survey of answers to the question “What was your primary means of travel to work during the survey week—’Worked at Home’ is one of the choices. The count only includes those who work at home at least half of the time. According to Global Workplace Analytics far more people work at home on a less frequent basis and many work in “third places” such as coffee shops, co-working facilities, libraries, and just about anywhere there’s an internet connection.
The report estimates that about half of the US population now holds a job that is at least partially compatible with remote work and between 80 percent and 90 percent of employees say they would work at home (or remotely), at least some of the time, if their employer would let them. While the majority of U.S. employers do allow some employees to work at home, they do not extend the privilege to all or even a majority of them. The figures do not include the self-employed work at home population which actually declined over the same period.
“It certainly reflects what we are seeing in the market,” says Kate Lister, president of GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, a San Diego-based workplace consulting firm. “During the recession, employers were mostly drawn to telecommuting as a way to decrease their real estate footprint and save money. Now we are seeing a greater emphasis on remote work options as part of a holistic strategy to reduce work-life conflict, attract and retain talent, improve sustainability, and increase employee engagement. The savings are still there—a typical employer can save $11,000 a year for each half-time remote worker—but it’s quickly losing ground as the primary driver.”
“The reality is, like Elvis, the employees have already left the building,” says Lister. “Study after study shows that people are not at their desk 50-60 percent of the time. Employers are shocked when they actually see the occupancy study results. Leading employers are doing something about it. They are completely redesigning their workplaces, work practices, and work policies to best support how people actually work. Home and third places are becoming where people go to concentrate. Offices are becoming where they go to collaborate.”