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Workers leave car in garage and telecommute

By Cara Baruzzi
Register Staff

It may not seem like it when highway traffic backs up during rush hour, but 158,000 Connecticut residents work from home at least one day a month, an 86 percent jump from five years ago, according to a recent survey.

"The trend is expanding," said Jean Stimolo, program manager for Telecommute Connecticut, a state Department of Transportation program, which conducted the online survey in the fall. Telecommute Connecticut offers employers free help in starting and operating telecommuting programs.

Nine percent of workers statewide telecommute regularly, slightly more than most other states, which average about 8 percent. "The state of Connecticut is really doing well," Stimolo said.

The vast majority of telecommuters, 95 percent, said there are benefits to working from home - a better work-life balance, enjoying their job more, and avoiding long commutes.

The trend also benefits businesses, the survey found. Among employers, 38 percent said telecommuting makes workers more productive and 35 percent said it reduced turnover.

"The flexibility works for the employee and the employer," Stimolo said.

According to the survey, the job functions most frequently done at home are working with documents, working with data, transactions, handling sales and customer service calls, and design and development.

Since 2002, the Hospital of Saint Raphael has hired telecommuters to perform "coding" tasks, reviewing patient documents and assigning them certain codes in order to prepare them for billing.

"It's a really important job, but extremely portable if you have the right tools in place," said Karen Lawler, the hospital's director of health information management.

Telecommute Connecticut worked with the hospital to establish a program in which seven "coders" work from home.

"We were expanding and we just, like every other institution, don't have any space" at the hospital, Lawler said, making telecommuting the best solution.

Telecommuting also made the job, which traditionally had been difficult to fill, much more attractive to prospective workers, she said. "It's made people happy. It's made us one of the most desirable places to work," she said.

People who opt to telecommute typically have longer commutes to work than those who choose to drive to the office. On average, telecommuters live 18 miles from their job, about five miles farther than employees who commute to a work site, according to the survey.

Eliminating commute time, at least occasionally, saves Connecticut telecommuters about $335 million a year and saves individual telecommuters about $2,100 a year. Telecommuting also takes nearly 60,000 cars off state roads every day, Stimolo said.

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