Report: Employees Working From Home Has Tripled in Last Decade

New York — May 29

According to a new report from the Conference Board, the proportion of employees who work predominately from home has more than tripled in many industries over the last decade, while nearly doubling nationwide among all full-time (non–self-employed) U.S. workers.

Drawn from a number of recent surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau and private sources, “The Incredible Disappearing Office: Making Telework Work” finds employees taking more frequent advantage of such workplace flexibility across the board, with 84 percent of employees who telework more than once per month now working remotely at least one day per week. In 2008, that number was 72 percent.

The latest research finds that teleworking rates — just over 2 percent nationwide — remain highest in occupations traditionally associated with the practice, including child care workers (9.1 percent in 2010), writers and authors (9.3 percent) and sales representatives (10.8 percent).

The fastest growth, however, has been outside these familiar work-from-home roles, with the most dramatic increases seen in computer-related positions and others reliant on remote access to technical systems.

These trends are fundamentally altering the profile of the average teleworker. Where employees of nonprofit organizations were most likely to telework in 2000, by 2010 the for-profit sector had taken the lead.

It may be unsurprising that workplace flexibility appeals both to older workers nearing (or delaying) retirement and Gen Y new hires for whom virtual presence and multichannel communication are second nature. Steady technical refinement, however, has made teleworking an increasingly attractive business proposition as well.

As a case study, “Making Telework Work” cites IBM’s long-term holistic strategy, which grew out of the 1970s and the idea of installing access “terminals” in employees’ homes. By 1995, 10,000 IBM employees were mobile, allowing the company to move from a traditional 1:1 workspace-to-worker ratio to 1:4.

Source: the Conference Board