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Telework Is Teleworking

A pair of recent studies on remote working illustrate both the growing support for and the outsized benefits of telework.

First, the Washington Post published a study last month that found that the number of DC workers telecommuting at least once a week has nearly doubled since 2010. Though 55 percent of the 1,106 survey respondents said they never telecommuted, 41 percent reported working remotely, with 20 percent teleworking at least once a week. It’s not surprising that telework is gaining popularity in Washington, the city with the second-worst commute in the nation. But WaPo’s survey respondents weren’t only concerned about the commute: 43 percent of DC telecommuters said the commute was only one of several factors inspiring them to work remotely (telework also offers flexible work schedules, a better work-life balance, and productivity gains); 36 percent of respondents said the commute wasn’t a factor at all.

Still, cutting out the onerous daily commute remains a big motivator. A new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) quantified the savings produced when people cut out their commute with telework. The annual driving costs of teleworkers was 15 percent lower than urban commuters, 45 percent lower than suburban commuters, and a whopping 57 percent lower than rural commuters. The report found that even irregular telecommuting could produce sizable savings, noting that “[t]elecommuting four days each month could reduce driving costs by up to 14%.”

The cost imperative for telework is clear, and commuters in our nation’s capital are catching on. That’s especially heartening considering the fact that bad traffic is wrecking our country’s mental health. Goodness knows our highways could use a little more sanity.

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  • jeburke

    41% report some work at home — but how much of this “telecommuting” was not optional work performed by people achieving a better work-life balance but obligatory work imposed by the ability of employers employing technology to keep many categories of employees tethered to their desks electronically?

    People in academic or government employment may not fully appreciate this but private-sector professionals likely do. I worked for 47 years before retiring in 2010, often in very demanding jobs. But until the last dozen or so years, I might have spent long hours in the office when needed, but by and large, when I was at home, intrusions on my time were reasonably limited. Being wired and connecting 24/7 with Blackberries, mobile phones, and laptops with easy broadband internet connections changed that dramatically. Yes, my “productivity” increased, basically because I was conveniently on tap to work anytime.

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