The ability to work from home is no longer just a fringe benefit for only a handful of employees, new research finds.
Indeed, telecommuting has become commonplace in today's technology-laden work environment, according to a Gallup study. Specifically, the number of employees who are, or have at one point in their career, worked at least one day a month from home has grown by more than 300 percent in the past 20 years. In 2015, 37 percent of employees said they had worked remotely at one point their career, compared to 30 percent in 2006 and just 9 percent in 1995.
"Technology has made telecommuting easier for workers, and most companies seem willing to let workers do their work remotely, at least on an occasional basis if the position allows for it," the study's authors wrote.
The rise in telecommuting could be partly due to an increased belief that employees who work from home are just as productive as their in-office counterparts. The study revealed that 58 percent of Americans — including both employed and unemployed people — believe those who work remotely are just as productive as those who work in an office, up from 47 percent who said the same in 1995. Just 20 percent of those surveyed think telecommuters are less effective on a daily basis than their peers who work in the office each day.
Previous Gallup research has found that employees who spend at least some time working remotely are more likely than those who never telecommute to be engaged in their jobs. [Should Your Company Make Telecommuting Permanent?]
"It is unclear from those relationships whether telecommuting increases engagement or [if] workers who telecommute (and tend to be more highly educated, white-collar employees) are more likely to be engaged in their work in general," the study's authors wrote. "Regardless of the causality, Gallup research has consistently demonstrated that companies with a more engaged workforce tend to do better in a variety of business outcomes, including productivity, profitability and customer engagement."
The vast majority of telecommuters work from home only on a limited basis. Among those who are currently telecommuting, 45 percent work from home less than five days a month, while just 24 percent telecommute more than 10 workdays a month.
23 percent work from home one or two days a month, 22 percent do so between three and five days a month and 24 percent telecommute more than 10 workdays a month.
"Those who telecommute do not do so on a very frequent basis," the study's authors wrote.
The study was based on surveys of 1,011 adults age 18 and older in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.