HR Strange But True!
July 13, 2006

A significant number of American workers who have the option of telecommuting prefer to work in the office even if it means they have to suffer through higher gas prices and traffic headaches, according to a survey sponsored by the Robert H. Smith School of Business's Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland and Rockbridge Associates, Inc.

The researchers found that the share of telecommuters in America would grow from 11 percent to more than 16 percent if every worker whose employer allowed them to telecommute took advantage of the policy.

The researchers found a number of people who said their jobs are conducive to telecommuting but whose employers have no policy allowing it. The researchers estimated that as much as 25 percent of the American workforce could ultimately telecommute.

The survey also found even workers who could telecommute still would choose against it the majority of the time over the next 12 months. Of those who could feasibly telecommute, less than half would choose to do so more than two days per week and 14 percent wouldn't telecommute at all.

"It seems the professional and social environment of the workplace wins out over money and time savings," says 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 researchers calculated that $3.9 billion could be saved in fuel costs 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 gas price of $2.89 per gallon.

"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," says Roland Rust, executive director of the center. "In addition to saving billions of dollars to the economy, the time and money saved on a long commute could significantly increase productivity and employee satisfaction."

Source: Robert H. Smith School of Business

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