June 24, 2011
Advances in information technology are transforming the workplace and the workday as more and more people are working from home.
Between 2000 and 2008 41 per cent of new jobs involved working at home at least some of the time. Today, 19.2 per cent of employees and self-employed people in Canada work at home at least part of the time.
Telecommuting and working at home have become a principal alternative to the automobile as a mode of access to employment, rivalling public transit as a mode of access to employment in many Canadian jurisdictions.
Government policy should be used to promote working from home, because of its potential for reducing public expenditures, improving productivity, reducing pollution emissions and decreasing traffic congestion.
Media Release - Telecommuting and Working at Home in the Emerging Work Environment
Winnipeg: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released Telecommuting and Working at Home in the Emerging Work Environment. This policy study describes how prevalent working from home has become, along with associated trends and issues. The central conclusion of the study is that the rise of telecommuting could offer the economy, businesses and government agencies a level of flexibility that could improve national productivity and contribute toward improved international competitiveness.
In this study, Wendell Cox, a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre and an expert on municipal government policy, shows that an ever-increasing share of the Canadian workforce is working from home rather than commuting to a facility owned by their employer. Mr. Cox demonstrates that the workplace and workday are changing in Canada due to advances in information technology and discusses the social, economic and environmental implications of these changes.
Mr. Cox examines Statistics Canada data to illustrate the steady rise in telecommuting that has occurred in recent years. Mr. Cox argues that the growth of telecommuting is a positive development for Canada, which can boost labour productivity while reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.
Key Findings Include:
Between the year 2000 and 2008, the overall share of people working at home in Canada rose 15.1 per cent. In 2008, 19.2 per cent of employees and self-employed individuals in Canada worked from home at least some of the time.
Among the 35 metropolitan areas in Canada with more than 100, 000 people, the 2006 census indicated that 6.2 percent of all employed Canadians reported their residence as their usual place of employment.
The percentage of employed Canadians who worked primarily from home differed substantially between metropolitan areas. Vancouver had the highest working-at-home share of any metropolitan area with more than 500, 000 residents. In 2006, 8.4 per cent of employed Vancouver residents worked primarily from home. Winnipeg had the smallest work-at-home market share of Canadian cities with at least 500, 000 residents (5.1 per cent).
Among the 35 largest metropolitan areas and agglomerations in Canada, Kelowna had the highest working-at-home market share (10.4 per cent) followed by Victoria (9.0 per cent).
Continued growth in telecommuting can help expand social inclusion in Canada, by giving people who do not have access to a car and people constrained by disabilities the potential to enter the workforce. This can contribute to lower poverty rates, less government spending on social programs and happier lives for people who are better positioned to access employment by working from home.
The research on telecommuting indicates improved productivity and lower costs. Employers that are able to make their work more efficient using working at home can reduce overhead expenses such as the cost of office space and equipment. For example, at Sun Micro Systems, about one half of the workforce telecommutes at least part of the time. The company has realized office space and utility savings of approximately $400-million.
The growth of working from home can lead to a reduction in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Working at home is by far the most sustainable mode of employment access, because it eliminates the need for work trip travel, reducing traffic volumes and vehicle emissions.
Working at home reduces work-trip travel which can reduce traffic congestion. This can help address the fact that traffic congestion is estimated to cost urban areas in Canada between $2.3- billion and $3.7 –billion each year in wasted time and the cost of wasted fuel.
“All things being equal, people have a better quality of life if they have more time to do the activities that they prefer or that are required in their households” says report author, Wendell Cox. “People who work at home spend virtually no time commuting to and from work. As a result, they do not encounter the stress, for example, of driving in traffic congestion or riding in crowded trains or buses. All of these factors generally contribute to a better quality of life.” Mr. Cox further states that governments should work to promote telecommuting and working from home, “governments and regional agencies should raise the profile of telecommuting and working at home in their plans and analysis to at least an equal emphasis with transit, cycling and walking.”
Download a copy of Telecommuting and Working at Home in the Emerging Work Environment HERE.
For more information and to arrange an interview with the study's author, media (only) should contact:
Director of Research
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy
is an independent public policy think tank whose mission is "to broaden the debate on our future through public policy research and education and to explore positive changes within our public institutions that support economic growth and opportunity."