Telecommuting and Working at Home in the Emerging Work Environment: The Benefits of Working at Home

Publication, Disruption, Wendell Cox


The Workplace and Workday are Changing: Advances in information tech-nology are driving a move away from the traditional 9:00 to 5:00 workday at the employer’s facility and toward working from home. Working from home has emerged as a near equal to alternatives to driving alone to work such as carpooling and public transit. Improved information technology is the principal driver of this change, as people can connect with colleagues and customers by electronic means, or telecommuting.
Telecommuting and Working at Home are Increasing: Currently, in Canada 19.2 per cent of employees and self-employed people work at home at least part of the time. This increased from 2000 to 2008 at a rate of 1.9 per cent per year. Over that period, nearly 41 per cent of new jobs involved working at home at least some of the time. Among employees, nearly 20 per cent of new jobs involved working at home. A far larger share of self-employed people work at home, and their numbers grew faster than the increase in self-employment from 2000 to 2008.
Telecommuting and Working at Home Have Become a Principal Alternative to the Automobile as a Mode of Access to Employment: Among the 35 census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations with more than 100,000 people, working at home accounts for 6.2 per cent of the usual work locations. The significance of working at home is illustrated by a comparison with transit, which represents the strongest alter-native to the automobile for access to employment.
Among the 10 largest metropolitan areas, working at home leads transit in employment access only in London, Ontario. However, among the other 25 metropolitan areas, working at home leads transit in 21.
Telecommuting and Working at Home are Distributed Evenly throughout the Metropolitan Areas: Working at home is distributed evenly throughout metropolitan areas in contrast with transit, which has much larger employment access shares to core areas of the metropolitan areas and much weaker shares to surrounding areas.
Telecommuters and People Working at Home are More Likely to Live in Areas that are More Peripheral, and They are Better Educated: People who work at home tend to live in areas that surround metropolitan areas, particularly peripheral areas. They tend to be university-degree holders to a greater extent than other workers, and their occupations tend to be more concentrated in management and professional and technical fields. Telecom-muters tend to have longer job tenure than people who do not telecommute. Finally, women with children are more likely to telecommute than are those without.
Telecommuting and Working at Home in the Modern Context: The expansion of working at home and telecommuting complements trends that are well underway in society, while responding to important societal objectives.
• In metropolitan areas, residential and employment dispersion continues, and as the distance between the residence and the employment location expands, more telecommuting is likely.
• There is a well-documented connection between greater employment access and job creation and economic growth in metropolitan areas. Because working at home makes employment access virtually instantaneous, it has great potential for improving urban productivity and creating jobs.
• Working at home can also improve employment access for people with disabilities or without access to auto-mobiles, expanding social inclusion.
• There is considerable evidence that working at home results in improved productivity and reduced costs for employers. It can also assist employees in improving the balance between work and personal responsibilities (the work-life balance).
• It seems likely that continuing advances in information technology will lead to an even greater expansion of working at home.
• Because working at home eliminates the work trip, it has the potential to reduce traffic congestion and to reduce expenditures for expanding transit and roads.
• Further, working at home virtually eliminates greenhouse gas emissions from the commute to work, making working at home the most sustainable of employment access methods.
There is Considerable Potential to Expand Telecommuting and Working at Home: The research indicates that working at home could expand materially.
• The most modest estimates for expansion indicate that working at home could double. This could lead to a reduction of 9 billion annual kilometres of work-trip driving and approximately 3 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions from light vehicles.
• Research suggests that working at home could reduce automobile travel by 8 per cent in metropolitan areas. If this were achieved, there would be a 23.5 billion kilometre reduction in driving in 30 years and an 8 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from light vehicles.
Telecommuting and Working at Home Should be Expanded: Because of its potential for reducing public expenditures, improving productivity and reducing emissions, working at home justifies considerably more attention than it has received.
Governments, and especially regional agencies, should raise the profile of tele-commuting and working at home in their plans and analysis to at least an equal emphasis with transit, cycling, and walking. Businesses should examine the potential for improving their performance using telecommuting and working at home.

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