NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Has Telecommuting Hit A Plateau?

August 17, 1997

Some employment specialists see signs that the proportion of employees in the labor force who work at home via computer may be reaching its zenith. While the numbers continue to grow somewhat, they are slowing.

  • Estimates of the total number of Americans who telecommute vary widely -- from 9 million to 42 million -- with one survey asserting the number to be 11.1 million nationwide.
  • Some 42 percent of companies of various sizes -- up from 33 percent the previous year -- have telecommuting arrangements, according to a study of 305 firms last year by the Olsten Corporation.
  • But the companies said that only 7 percent of their employees ever telecommute -- a number that has held steady for four consecutive annual surveys.
  • Experts estimate that one out of every five telecommuting arrangements fails -- either because employees have unrealistic expectations or employers are afraid of losing control.

Telecommuters can be part-time employees of outside firms, independent contractors serving a number of firms, business owners working from their homes or just employees who bring work home from the office. On average, workers give up telecommuting after six to 18 months, experts say.

Source: Susan J. Wells, "For Stay-Home Workers, Speed Bumps on the Telecommute," New York Times, August 17, 1997.


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