- Telecommuting increased 159% between 2005 and 2017, according to an analysis of the American Community Survey by Global Workplace Analytics, a remote and flexible work consulting firm, and FlexJobs. The report defined "telecommuters" or "remote workers" as non-self-employed workers who principally work from home at least half of the time, and it did not include people classified as freelancers, business owners or entrepreneurs in its definition.
- Of the total U.S. workforce, 4.7 million are current telecommuters, FlexJobs said. This number has increased from 3.9 million in 2015, it noted. The data also showed that employees who work at home at least once a month make up a much larger portion of the workforce than those who are dedicated full- or part-time telecommuters, according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics.
- "Talent shortages are fueling the growth of workplace flexibility right now because not only is it one of the most sought-after benefits among job seekers today, it also expands the talent pool by allowing employers to hire the best and the brightest from around the world," Lister said in a statement.
The massive growth in telecommuting in just 12 years may not surprise employers. In a study by DigitalOcean, 86% of IT employees surveyed worked remotely, with nearly one-third working from home full time. And for 43% of the more than 4,500 respondents in the study, having the ability to work remotely is a must-have when considering whether to accept a job offer.
Flexibility is the norm for many workers today. Researchers from the University of Michigan and California State University Channel Islands found that without flexibility, workers were less happy on the job and more apt to leave. In short, the employer that offers remote work options will have an edge in the competition for talent. For some organizations, offering workers flexible work options might require a culture shift — even a total change in the way productivity is perceived. Employers are finding, however, that taking a hard look at how work is structured at their companies often reveals that they are already offering some form of flexibility, be it unofficially or on a case-by-case basis, experts previously told HR Dive. Many workers say they feel more productive while working from home, too, thanks to fewer distractions, fewer interruptions and less commuting stress.
A big barrier for employers may be a lack of an overall remote work policy, a fix that could help ameliorate other remote work issues. According to 73% of IT leaders in an OpenVPN survey, remote workers pose a greater security risk to their organizations than onsite workers because companies have less control over the digital tools used to work offsite. HR and IT must work together to draft remote-work policies to strengthen security and train all workers in taking precautions to avoid breaches.