US sees big rise in teleworking


Almost 29 million Americans now work remotely at least one day per month while the number of employees whose boss is happy for them to do the same has risen by 63 per cent since 2004.

New figures from WorldatWork's Telework Trendlines report have found that 12.4 million employees worked remotely at least once a month in 2006, up from 7.6 million in 2004.

Looking at both employed and self-employed workers, the number working remotely rose by 10 per cent, from 26.1 million in 2005 to 28.7 million in 2006.

Based on government estimates of 149.3 million workers in the U.S. labour force, the 2006 data means that some eight per cent of American workers have an employer that allows them to telecommute one day per month, while around 20 per cent of the entire workforce engages in telework.

Just to underline the speed of change, the report also found that the number of those who say they never work remotely has fallen by a quarter between 2005 and 2006, while the number of fulltime teleworkers rose by an astonishing 20 per cent to some 14.7 million.

The report says that these increases are due to a combination of factors, including the proliferation of high speed and other wireless internet access (which has made it both less expensive and more productive to work remotely) and the willingness of more employers to embrace flexibility and work-life balance.

The number of telecommuters using a broadband connection at home increased by more than 45 per cent in the 2006 survey, following an even larger 65 per cent rise in the 2005 survey. In 2006, 19.1 million home-based "employed telecommuters" used broadband compared to 8 million in 2004.

The figures reveal that while the single largest group of teleworkers – more than four out of 10 - live in a household that earns $75,000 USD or more per year, the picture is not all rosy.

Teleworkers are four times as likely to say that they worked while on vacation as all Americans in general, while the new freedom to work flexibly and independently can also mean working anywhere, everywhere ands all the time.

"The current data suggests that technology is no longer a barrier to telework," said Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader at WorldatWork.

"We estimate that 100 million U.S. workers will telework by 2010. The dramatic rise in telework will take place in part because more and more companies are realizing the cost benefits from telework and are viewing it as a tool to attract and retain employees."