Currently, one out of every four American workers telecommutes with some regularity. Studies indicate that 80% to 90% of employees who do not telecommute would like to have the opportunity to work from home. At the present trend, by 2020 50% of all U.S. employees will work remotely, according to industry experts at the 2016 Telecommuting, Remote and Distributed (TRaD) Works Forum.
Since the 90’s, the work-from-home trend has been picking up steam, with more and more companies offering either part-time or full-time telecommuting opportunities to a portion of its employees. IBM was an early adopter of telecommuting and over two-plus decades shrank its footprint by 78 million square feet. As other companies followed suit, working from home became a sought-after perk of many white-collar jobs.
In recent years, however, a handful of Fortune 500 companies have reversed or curtailed telecommuting options for its workforce, citing a need to improve worker collaboration in order to remain competitive. Telecommuting pioneer IBM recently reversed its policy for 2,500+ Marketing and IT personnel. In 2013 Yahoo called remote workers back to the office (but seems to have softened its stance since then). Last year, Honeywell banned telecommuting for much of its 129,000 non sales/field personnel.
In a recent Gallup poll, employees were asked how important certain attributes are when considering whether to take a job with a different organization. Number two on the list was greater work-life balance and better personal well-being (just after the ability to do what they do best).
For those employees who reside in metro areas with congested thoroughfares such as Atlanta, flexible work schedules that include telecommuting options rank high in achieving that work-life balance. According to INRIX, a transportation analytics firm, in 2016 Atlanta ranked eighth in the world for congestion and number four nationally. And a 2016 U.S. Census data showed the average one-way travel time for Atlanta commuters is 28 minutes. And we all know Atlanta-based employees who spends 45 minutes, an hour, or more getting to and from work.
Millennials (and many Gen-Ys) in particular are increasingly demanding flexible work schedules—many now ask about telecommuting options during job interviews—and considering that by 2025, it’s projected that millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce, employers have begun to pay greater attention.
A convergence of trends—a desire for improved work-life balance, wasted time traversing congested highways, and the influences of a generation who cut their teeth on virtual experiences—suggest the continued growth of telecommuting is not likely to be reversed, the recent about-face of companies like Honeywell notwithstanding.