Work-at-Home Numbers Flat for 8 Years

The American Time Use Survey, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, has new updates from people who answered the questionnaire in 2017.

The most surprising data point that jumped out at me was this:

From 2009 to 2017, the share of full-time employed workers performing some work at home remained relatively flat.

In the last eight years, the U.S. working population did not see a significant increase in the number of people who work from home.

I would have guessed an increase for a few reasons. First, I would have thought that the number of people who opt into working from home on occasion with flex-time options (meaning people can work from home when they need to or on a part-time basis, such as every Friday) would have risen. Second, I would have assumed the number of full-time remote work positions has increased, and the number of hours reported by that population would have had an effect on the average number of hours spent working at home. The only number I might have guessed at being flat is the hours spent working from home optionally, in the case of people who catch up on email after hours or otherwise do work outside the office without it being in an official capacity.

On that final point, it’s worth pointing out that in the Time Use Survey, we don’t have any knowledge of whether “work at home” means sanctioned or unsanctioned (i.e., technically optional) work. I’d love to see recent data that does differentiate between the two.

Here are some other highlights from the 2017 Time Use Survey related to working from home:

On the days they worked, 23 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at home.

Again, what’s frustrating about this statistic is we don’t have any indication whether the work is sanctioned remote work or optional time spent working from home.

We do know, however, that on average, employed people spent about 8 hours at the workplace, compared with 3.1 hours working at home.

Among workers age 25 and older, those with an advanced degree were more likely to work at home (46 percent) than were persons with only a high school diploma (12 percent).

While this statistic about working from home and educational attainment isn’t surprising, it is surprising that the Bureau of Labor Statistics mentions it among its notable findings. In any case, there seems to be an increasing interest in remote work.

What could be interesting is whether we’ll see fewer opportunities for remote work among the lesser educated populations going forward. While not everyone flourishes in a work-from-home setup, it’s certainly an advantage to have the option.

Image by Dennis Sylvester Hurd, CC.



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