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Survey: Only 11% of Americans Who Can Telecommute Do

The 2005/2006 National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS), sponsored by the Robert H. Smith School of Business’ Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland and technology research firm Rockbridge Associates Inc., found that despite 25% of respondents citing supportive employer telecommuting policies or jobs that would allow work from home, only 11% are doing so.

The NTRS determined that about 1.35 billion gallons of fuel could be saved if everyone with the potential to telecommute did so 1.6 days per week, based on a driving average of 20 miles per day, getting 21 miles-per-gallon. At an average gas price of $2.97 per gallon, that’s about $4 billion worth of fuel.

With national gas prices hovering near $3 a gallon, American workers could suffer less pain at the pump if they took advantage of workplace telecommuting policies. In addition to saving billions of dollars to the economy, the time and money saved on a long commute—even just two days a week—could significantly increase productivity and employee satisfaction.

—Roland Rust, executive director of the Center for Excellence in Service

Findings from the 2005/2006 NTRS regarding telecommuting include:

  • Only 2 percent of adults who work telecommute full time; another 9 percent telecommute part time and 8 percent have home-based businesses.

  • Ninety-one percent of full- and part-time workers with a commute drive to work.

  • The median commuting time reported by US workers with commutes is 20 minutes each way, and the median distance is 10 miles each way.

  • Of those who could feasibly telecommute, less than half would choose to do so more than two days per week and 14 percent would not telecommute at all.

  • Eighty-two percent of full-time American workers have a Web connection at home, 69 percent of which are high-speed.




Com'on people. That's the biggest waste of money on a survey I've ever seen. Most people aren't motivated enough to do a good job working from home that's why they need to have supervision. I guess they eventually could save all the money they spend on fuel for work eventually...when they lose their job!!!


This is an example of 'presenteeism' the opposite of 'absenteeism'. Other cases are 'working' back late when then is nothing to do and coming in with a bad cold and infecting everybody. This shows that high energy use (from unnecessary commuting) is partly cultural and therefore resistant to conservation attempts.

Mark R. W. Jr.

Telecommuting hasn't really caught on mainly because most management doesn't actually trust people working from home to do their assigned workload/tasks. The point though that telecommuting would save fuel is something to think about.

Rafael Seidl

Having worked in a company that not only permitted but encouraged its employees to telecommute, my impression is that it takes a while to learn how to manage remote employees. I supervised three of them, 8 time zones apart. It can be done, in certain industries. Once you get over the initial modus operandi issues, team productivity actually goes up because individuals are more motivated to deliver results when they are given the freedom to better juggle their work and home life. Avoiding a cold outbreak is a fringe benefit.

More important is that people get more resitant to useless travel around the country as they become more comfortable with relying heavily on telecommunications tools, with their co-workers as well as customers. The value of a face-to-face meeting is often wildly exaggerated, especially for technical discussions.

The one issue that kept cropping up was the cost of still reserving office space for those who telecommute. Most managers preferred to have them come in at least once or twice a week. Some of those who were permanently based in the field and came to HQ for only one week a month were prepared to share an office, otherwise the idea of sharing a phone and workstation never took off.

The other issue that was always a concern was remote access into the corporate network and sensitive intellectual property available on it, mostly because of the lack of physical security at employees' homes. Also, some had spouses who happened to work for a competitor. It takes a high level of trust to allow individuals telecommute from home.


If you can't manage people at home, that shows you really haven't clearly defined what the required jobs are and what the performance parameters of those jobs are. Is is true that the state of American management is so pathetic that they can't develop performance based metrics for their employees. What do they do? Walk around and stare at their employees?

Perhaps employees commute when they don't have to because they fear that the manager will finally figure out how worthless they are. Or, perhaps, they feel they will be out of sight, out of mind. I guess it's much harder to smooze with the boss when you're at home.

If the employee is actually delivering products, then it should not matter whether these are created at home or at work.


I telecommute from home 100% of the time. It is a challenge to stay focused. But not much more than when I was in an office full of water coolers, coffee stands and people. It's a good thing I don't like doing house work anyway. My productivity is much higher as I'm not getting constantly interrupted. The major downside is that the social life and interaction with co-workers is nil.

I go a little stir crazy from time to time.

allen Z

Speaking of spouses, telecommuting could be a way for stay at home moms to at least stay abreast with their careers/jobs/jobskills. Working an equivalent of 2-3 days a week, at home, that would otherwise be down time from work to stay at home raising children, would help women not lose as much time during child bearing age. It would also make decisions about taking some time off from full tme work easier. There is a growing flex-job movement in the US, with either 1) a part-time/ telecommuting mom with toddlers, 2) two people working a single job, splitting time and salary bassed on time/ effort input.
___Telecommuting would make "stay at home Dads" more economically, financially, socially, culturally acceptable. Of course, this would be for jobs that could be done via computer from remote locations. This would include various data and tech jobs.


I'd love to telecommute. Going into the office seems ludicrous to me, especially when all I do is write code.

Unfortunately, communication in my company is poor and our development life cycle is non-existent.

Fortunately, I can walk to work, so I'm not using any extra fuel.

Matthew Parrish

I just recently changed jobs and will be able to telecommute fulltime now. I live in Columbus, OH and my employer is in Phoenix, AZ. I will have to work on-site one week out of every six, which I think will be a nice break. I'm very interested to see how well I'll be able to manage my time and how productive I'll be.

Unfortunately, I'll be emitting carbon every six weeks to fly cross-country, but I'm glad to see that TerraPass just released the Flight TerraPass to offset emissions from flights. I'll probably end up purchasing some of those.

Joseph Willemssen

john galt

Unless a strong business case for a "slam dunk" cost saving is made to leadership of a company, telecommutting will never flourish in the short sighted corporate culture of the United States. Although "t" seems to fault workers who are concerned about political face time, I've seen telecommutters and job sharing staff hosed by on site staff who work the suck up and schmooze agenda. It did not matter how good the work quality was of the telecommutter, it is difficult to demonstrate value in the presence of an on site employee who is focused on sucking up to a feckless, ego-centric management team. Until company leaders decide to reformulate corporate norms and values, as well as work process design, and performance measurement, telecomutting will not be much more that a marketing pitch to sell software and hardware like the URL Joseph posted for the offering from Sun. This is not an issue of software, hardware, or telecom configurations. It is an issue of company leaders making a commitment to a viable change in organizational behavior. Status quo situations win often, especially when executives are rewarded in millions of dollars to keep replaying the same myopic management paradigms.


Every R&D engineer can easily spend one day per week at home searching the net for valuable information, notably patent searches and evaluations. Efficiency of such a work is 300% because you do not have nuisances like phone calls, meeting, or donuts parties during your web-session.

allen Z

Perhaps a audio-video interconnect between workers would link workers together face to face over the net. Its better than constant IMs or E-mails.


I come into the office in Switzerland, working for a guy in Holland for a project in the Czech republic. I saw this guy once, I have never seen anybody from the Czech part and it really doesn't matter. Needless to say, I could do this from home... Anyway, I take the train to come to work because it is way more conveniant that the car.


The only way this is going to work, is if the reward for work done is sufficient. In other words, if a worker is going to get paid whether he works or not, then there is not reason for the work to get finished, and that's when telecomuting will NOT work. Everybody that says it's management, could be right, but as it stands, I don't know anybody that works for a company without getting paid.


VPNs and other tunneling network technologies are fairly secure...almost as secure as the onsite network itself is (if the company has computers connected to the internet which most, invariably do).

tom deplume

Your question about American managers not knowing how to help employees do their better is on target. I had a supervisor tell me his job was to catch employees violating arbitrary rules not helping us serve the customers better. Most often they were unable to explain the rationale behind the rules, it was just company policy.

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