Once considered a novelty, telecommuting has now become mainstream, thanks largely to technology.
More than 38 million people, or 37 percent of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least once a month, according to the report "Telework and the Technologies Enabling Work Outside Corporate Walls" released Thursday by the Consumer Electronics Association.
The CEA survey found that among telecommuters, 98 percent use computer technology, such as PCs and printers; 90 percent use communications equipment, including cell phones and fax machines; and 75 percent use accessories, such as surge protectors and docking stations.
Home workers cited the ability to focus on tasks without disruption and running a home-based business as the greatest incentives for working from home. Top benefits included flexible hours, reduced travel time, and higher productivity.
"Technological advances, economic considerations, and the promise of augmented efficiency have elevated working from home from a novelty to a reality," Steve Koenig, CEA's director of industry analysis, said in a statement. "Employees believe their performance is enhanced and their quality of life improves. It's a mutually beneficial proposition for employers and employees."
Technology vendors have also benefited from the growth in telecommuting.
Only 34 percent of teleworkers can tap into their employer's computers and other technology from home, while 31 percent don't have access to an employer-provided cell phone or fax machine. As a result, more than half of today's teleworkers will spend on average $925 over the next year on tech products, said the report, driving more than $19 billion toward the consumer electronics market.
The environment has been another beneficiary, the CEA said. The company's research showed that just one day of telecommuting saved between 16- and 23-kilowatt hours of electricity, equal to 12 hours of electricity use. That single day also helps at the pump, cutting out 1.4 gallons of gas on average and slashing CO2 emissions by 17 to 23 kilograms.
The CEA is a trade association comprised of more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies. The report was compiled by CEA Market Research, which surveyed 1,221 working adults online between July 22 and July 29.