Americans' love affair with the car and attachment to the office is costing the U.S. economy $3.9 billion a year in fuel and time equal to 470,000 jobs, according to the 2005/2006 National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS).
The annual survey found that although a quarter of Americans work for employers with supportive telecommuting policies or jobs that would allow them to work from home, barely more than one in 10 (11 per cent) are actually doing so.
"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," said Roland Rust, executive director of the Robert H. Smith School of Business' Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland, which co-sponsored the report with technology research firm Rockbridge Associates Inc..
"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."
The survey also found that even those who could work remotely would choose not to do so the majority of the time.
"It seems the professional and social environment of the workplace wins out over money and time savings," said Charles Colby, president of Rockbridge Associates.
"Though a fourth of the population could be working from home, most American workers still choose the office environment for the majority of their work week."
The survey found that only two percent of Americans who work telecommute full time. Another nine per cent telecommute part time and eight per cent have home-based businesses.
And of those who could feasibly telecommute, less than half would choose to do so more than two days per week and 14 per cent would not telecommute at all.
Yet the survey calculated that $3.9 billion 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 a price of $2.89 per gallon.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the typical U.S. commuter pays $688 a year in gasoline and nearly 100 million adults commute to work each day, the vast majority alone in their cars.