July 12, 2006

Few US workers who could telecommute do so: study

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - One-quarter of the U.S. work force
could be doing their jobs from home if all those able to
telecommute chose to do so, according to a study on Wednesday
which said many still elect to work at the office.

All those people working from home could translate into
annual gasoline savings of $3.9 billion, according to the
National Technology Readiness Survey.

The study found that 2 percent of U.S. workers telecommute
full-time and another 9 percent do so part-time.

But another 14 percent of workers have the option of
telecommuting, or have jobs conducive to the practice but
choose not to, the study found.

The numbers suggest that many people would rather work at
the office even if their job allowed telecommuting, said
Professor P.K. Kannan, of the Robert H. Smith School of
Business at the University of Maryland, which sponsored the
study with Rockbridge Associates Inc., a Great Falls, Virginia
research firm.

"That seems to suggest that even if employers were to say
tomorrow that everybody had the option of telecommuting and you
would save a lot of gas, that's not going to happen," Kannan

People still have good reasons to go to the office.

"An hypothesis could be that people still need the 'face
time' with their bosses," he said. "Another thing is people
miss the social interaction, just being at home."

And with a median one-way commute of 10 miles and a median
one-way commute time of 20 minutes, the daily trip for many
workers is not that bad, he added.

"People actually prefer to go in, even though they have the
option of telecommuting," he said.

Of those who can already telecommute, most do so only one,
two or three days per week, the study found.

The study arrived at its estimate of possible savings of
$3.9 billion by assuming that all those with the potential to
telecommute did so 1.6 days a week.

The annual study was based on a random sample of 1,015 U.S.
adults. Half were surveyed by telephone in December and half
were surveyed online in February, and the margin of error was
plus or minus 3 percentage points.