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The Shortest Commute
Working At Home Becomes More Common, Cutting Costs, Traffic And Pollution

By Steve Grant
Courant Staff Writer

A new survey of Connecticut workers conducted for the state Department of Transportation's Telecommute Connecticut program shows dramatic growth in telecommuting in the past five years.

"We are totally thrilled with the results. The numbers we are seeing are things we were hoping for but couldn't confirm until the survey," said Jean T. Stimolo, program manager for Telecommute Connecticut.

More than 158,250 Connecticut workers telecommute -- work from home -- at least one day a month, many of them far more often than that. The number is up 86 percent since a similar study five years ago using a more narrow definition of telecommuter. The state's total employment at the time of the latest study was 1,758,400.

Telecommute Connecticut provides no-cost consulting services to Connecticut businesses that are considering telecommuting for their employees. The goals of the program are to reduce highway congestion, energy consumption and air pollution by keeping cars off the road.

Not all jobs lend themselves to telecommuting, of course, but Stimolo said survey results suggest another increase of about 25 percent "would be fairly easy to accomplish."

"Working from home often means working smarter," said Gov. M. Jodi Rell. "With the technology available to everyone today, telecommuting is increasingly a better choice for individuals and their employers. It means [fewer] cars on our highways, and it eliminates the commuting portion of the workday while actually increasing productivity."

Longer Commutes

On average, the survey found, Connecticut workers live about 13 miles from their jobs. But for the average telecommuter, it's about 18 miles.

When they do go to the office, telecommuters usually drive alone. Based on the number of telecommuters, average number of days telecommuting and average distance from work, the survey estimates that telecommuting reduces the total number of vehicle miles traveled on Connecticut roads by 45 million a month.

The average telecommuter stays home 9.7 days a month, saving more than $2,100 a year in commuting costs, based on AAA cost estimates for an average vehicle driven 10,000 miles a year.

Telecommuting levels now are the equivalent of every worker in the state not traveling to work one day a month, Stimolo said.

Who Telecommutes?

Telecommuters tend to be wealthier and better educated than those who do not work from home, the survey found. For example, among all workers, 13 percent reported household incomes between $100,000 and $149,999, while 19 percent of telecommuters fell into that category.

Almost half of the telecommuters in the state come from two counties, Hartford, with 25 percent, and Fairfield, with 24 percent. Only 3 percent of workers in Windham County telecommute.

What kind of work do telecommuters do at home? Working with documents - writing documents or reading them - was cited by 43 percent of telecommuters. Working with data was second, at 40 percent.

Happy Workers

"Most of those who work at home are very satisfied with their experiences," the survey concluded after asking respondents to choose three descriptive statements about working at home from a list of 12. The most frequently cited description, chosen by half of the responders, was that telecommuting "helps me manage both home and personal responsibilities."

"I really enjoy working at home," reported 46 percent of telecommuters.

"Not having to commute is one of the best things about working from home," was cited by 45 percent of telecommuters. In all, 95 percent of respondents felt positively about telecommuting.

On the other hand, 40 percent of telecommuters agreed with the statement, "I like working from home most of the time, but it also has some drawbacks." Ten percent of telecommuters said they find it harder to concentrate on work at home.
Thirty-two percent of telecommuters thought they were more productive when working from home. Only 5 percent of telecommuters worried that they would not be promoted because they work from home, and only 8 percent felt they were "out of the loop" in their company because they worked from home.

Nine percent of telecommuters said they would look for another job if their employer said they could no longer work from home.
Among workers who do not telecommute, 42 percent said they would like to, but 75 percent said the nature of their work would not allow working from home. And in any event, 63 percent said their employer wouldn't allow it.

About The Survey

The survey was conducted by Strategic Focus Inc. of Chicago for Telecommute Connecticut. It was conducted online among 17,375 members of panels who agreed to respond to e-mail requests to complete surveys. Responses were received from 1,774 panel members, who reported on a total of 3,002 Connecticut workers in their households.

The survey used an expanded definition of telecommuter in 2006. A telecommuter was defined in 2001 as someone who works at home one or more days a month during normal working hours. It was expanded in 2006 to include people who work at home after normal hours to compensate for time taken off during the regular workday - a change that created 17,000 more "telecommuters."

A Survey of Employers

A survey in Fairfield County and Westchester County, N.Y., that looked at employer attitudes toward telecommuting was conducted last year for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. It found employers that offered telecommuting were pleased with the results. Thirty-eight percent reported productivity increases among telecommuters, 35 percent reported lower turnover, 26 reported a reduction in traffic congestion, and 24 percent even thought employees were more accessible working from home.

Still, CBIA says, 81 percent of employers said they do not offer telecommuting, with almost half of those saying it would be impossible for their employees to work off-site.

With traffic congestion a major problem in much of the state, CBIA economist Peter Gioia says telecommuting is a viable option that can be part of broader solutions to the problem in coming years.

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