Is Telecommuting Increasing?

Date posted: April 10, 2014

I remember a couple of decades ago when the computer and internet first burst upon the scene, many futurists said people would eventually work out of their homes. This doesn’t appear to have happened, says host Mary Walden. “What has happened to telecommuting?” she asks her husband, N.C. State University economist Mike Walden.

Mike Walden: Mary, if you read the studies on this and read the folks who try to track it, the honest answer is, we really don’t know. The problem is in defining telecommuting.  Now, one study shows that telecommuting is done by about three million workers nationwide (which equals about two and a half percent of the workforce) and also that it’s increased about 80 percent in the last decade. But the problem with those numbers is that we don’t know if we’re counting people who work exclusively from home, which I think is what most people think of as telecommuting. Or is [the count] also including some folks who have a traditional job where they go to work, drive to work, do their work, come home and then do some do additional work from home from their PC or laptop or tablet?  So, the problem, therefore, is defining who is actually doing telecommuting. Now we do have some survey data based on looking at people who are true telecommuters, and they are, as you expect, typically college graduates. They are about 50 years old, and they earn about $60,000. Now some studies show that there is a cost to people who telecommute, that actually they tend to get promoted at a slower rate. And maybe this is based on the old adage, if you’re out of sight, you’re going to be out of mind. If the boss doesn’t see you, the boss may forget you.

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