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New Harris Poll looks at demographics of telecommuters, finds majority believe telecommuting increases productivity

Nine in 10 American workers agree that working from home provides flexibility, according to a Harris Poll conducted among 2,219 adults between February 28 and March 4, 2013. The survey shows one-third of American workers who are not self-employed say they spend time during normal business hours working from home (34 percent). One in ten (9 percent) work primarily or exclusively from home, with another 8 percent who spend about half their time working from home. Just under one in five (17 percent) spend less than half their time working from home, while two-thirds (66 percent) do not work from home at all.

Younger workers, those 18-34, are more likely to work from home than those 35-44 (40 percent versus 27 percent), and over one-third of those workers aged 45-54 (35 percent) and 55 and older (37 percent) spend any time working from home. There is also a perception that these telecommuters are all moms. Yes, parents of a child under the age of 18 are more likely to work from home than those without kids (41 percent versus 31 percent) but men are more likely to work from home than women (37 percent versus 31 percent).

Attitudes on the policy of working from home. Among American workers, working from home creates some mixed feelings. On the one hand, over four in five workers (85 percent) say working from home enables employees to balance work and family needs, but almost the same number (84 percent) say working together in an office setting adds to team camaraderie. Just over four in five workers also agree that some of the best ideas and/or decisions can result from impromptu, in person meetings and discussions (83 percent) and that working in an office setting improves communication/collaboration (81 percent).

Looking at the issue of productivity, most workers believe that it is not endangered by working from home; in fact, almost two-thirds of American workers (64 percent) agree that working from home increases productivity and work output, while one-third (35 percent) agree that working from home hurts speed and work quality.

The ability to telecommute is also something workers are now factoring into the job considerations. Over four in five (83 percent) agree that the option of working from him is a significant job perk, and three in five (61 percent) agree that the option to telecommute has or would have an impact on their decision to take or stay at a job.

Looking at some specific demographic groups:

  • Women are overall more likely than men to agree with positive statements about working from home: Working from home provides flexibility (94 percent — 87 percent); Working from home enables employees to balance work and family needs (88 percent — 83 percent); The option of working from home is a significant job perk (86 percent — 81 percent); and Working from home increases productivity and work output (68 percent — 60 percent).
  • Workers with children under 18 (71 percent) are more likely than those without (56 percent) to agree that the option to telecommute has or would have an impact on their decision to take or stay at a job.
  • U.S. workers who spend any time working from home are significantly more likely than those who do not to agree with positive statements about working from home: Working from home enables employees to balance work and family needs (89 percent — 83 percent); The option to work from home is a significant job perk (88 percent — 81 percent); Working from home increases productivity and work output (76 percent — 57 percent); The option to telecommute has/would have an impact on my decision to take or stay at a job (76 percent — 52 percent).
  • Men are significantly more likely than women to agree that working in an office setting improves communication/collaboration (83 percent — 78 percent).
  • Somewhat surprisingly, it is the youngest workers who are most likely to agree that working from home hurts speed and work quality, with 18-34 year olds more likely than any other age group to agree with this (46 percent 18-34, 34 percent 35-44, 29 percent 45-54, 22 percent 55+).

Source: Harris Interactive; www.harrisinteractive.com.