A recent report on the state of telecommuting shows that it’s continuing to have an outsized impact on the American workforce.
According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting Report, regular telecommuting grew 115 percent in the past decade, nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce, as technology made it easier for people to work from home – or to bring their work with them to the place they wanted to call home. More on that in a bit.
That doesn’t mean that traditional workspaces are going the way of the dodo bird, and we shouldn’t conflate telecommuting with the “gig” economy, which may grow and shrink to fit business cycles. In fact, a well-respected study about the effects of the gig economy made news this week when its authors suggested they had overestimated how many people had alternative work arrangements and that their numbers from just a few years ago were inflated because of the lingering effects of the Great Recession.
But if we take out Uber drivers and other freelancers looking to make ends meet or supplement their incomes, the workplace is still feeling an impact from telecommuting.
Take the greater Flagstaff region.
As we’ve previously reported, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that management jobs in our region jumped 49 percent in five years, from 2,740 positions in 2012 to 4,080 in 2017. Flagstaff didn’t have a 49 percent internal growth in new businesses during that time, making it easy to infer that the jump was the result of inward migration of people who essentially brought their jobs with them, either as telecommuting employees, small entrepreneurs, or gig economy workers.
We believe this growth may be having a greater impact on Flagstaff than NAU, especially with traffic congestion.
There are ample reasons why traditional businesses and employees, in addition to gig economy workers, would seek out telecommuting opportunities, according to the telecommuting study. For employers, telecommuting equals higher productivity, lower absenteeism and reduced real estate costs. It also helps with recruiting and cuts down on travel time for meetings.
Meanwhile, employees save on the costs of traditional commuting and working in an office, saving on gas, tolls, parking, buying lunch out, even their clothing expenses.
It benefits communities too as telecommuting jobs tend to have smaller carbon footprints and lower impact, yet bring higher wages.
Since estimates show that an ever larger portion of our workforce will telecommute in the future, we’d like to again urge our policymakers to concentrate on solutions that will help this growing sector.
If more employees are coming to Flagstaff because of all its lifestyle amenities and have the freedom to work from anywhere because of telecommuting, we need to be conscious of increased demands for things like housing and infrastructure (both of the street and digital varieties). At the same time, our community also needs to balance these policies so that support of the sector doesn’t come at the expense of traditional workers, especially our teachers, public safety and service sector personnel.
To read the 2017 State of Telecommuting report in its entirety, click here.