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Study: More employees are keeping jobs at home

By Mark Ginocchio
Staff Writer

April 1, 2007

More of the state's labor force is working regularly from home, with more employers encouraging telecommuting because it enhances productivity and decreases traffic congestion, a new survey has found.

The survey, released last week by the state-funded Telecommute Connecticut, notes an 86 percent increase in telecommuting since December 2001, with nearly one in four such workers beginning to do so in the past six months.

"It's a good sign," said Jean Stimolo, program manager for Telecommute Connecticut, which provides employers with free assistance to develop and implement telecommuting programs. "We're seeing a lot of companies who are interested . . . This is very encouraging and very exciting."

The agency estimates the state has about 158,000 telecommuters, compared with 85,260 five years ago. About 9 percent of working residents telecommute at least once a month.

One out of three work from home occasionally, according to the survey of 1,774 respondents.

The average telecommuter spends about 10 work days per month at home, according to the survey. About 53 percent of all telecommuters work at home four days or fewer each month and spend 17 percent of their total work hours there. About 47 percent work at home five days or more per month, spending 57 percent of their total work hours there.

Telecommuting has many environmental benefits, Stimolo said. Based on the number of telecommuters found in the survey, the distance from their workplaces and the number of reported telecommuting days, the increases result in about 540 million fewer miles traveled each year and a savings of 28.6 million gallons of gasoline.

The agency also estimates a reduction of 81,000 tons of air pollution.

Though the increases have been gradual, workers are telecommuting more recently due to rising gasoline prices and improving technology, Stimolo said.

Some industries not previously associated with telecommuting are starting to talk to the agency, she added.

For companies that have been in the forefront of the state's telecommuting efforts, the survey results make sense.

"It's getting easier to work from home," said Ed Houghton, director of work force effectiveness for Pitney Bowes. "What we're seeing is a greater use of remote work in general."

Pitney Bowes, which has offices in Stamford and Shelton, already uses "visitor centers," where employees traveling between the two locations can work.

And the company encourages employees to telecommute more often to save on energy costs, Houghton added.

"If it's possible for employees to work from home, or from a location close to home, we're in favor of it," he said.

The number of telecommuters likely will continue to increase, Houghton said.

"The traffic is just not going to improve," he said. "Couple that with energy costs . . . I can't see it going anywhere but up."

But telecommuters still face some challenges, said Jack Condlin, president of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce.

"For some smaller companies, there's a need of synergy that you only get from working in the office," Condlin said. "But as it gets more difficult to commute, I can see the continuation of this type of growth."

William Malloy, president of the William F. Malloy insurance agency in Stamford, said that as an employer, he's been open to telecommuting for years. About four of his 14 employees telecommute regularly.

"It doesn't matter to me what hours they work," Malloy said. "It just matters that they get the work done."

Copyright © 2007, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.

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