By Harley Frazis
Over the past two decades, data sources indicate an increase in the number of employees working at home. The American Community Survey shows a 115 percent increase over the period 2005-2017 in the number of workers who work from home at least half the time (Global Workplace Analytics, 2017), to about 3 percent of the workforce. Gallup estimates an increase in the proportion of workers who have ever telecommuted from 9 percent in 1995 to 37 percent in 2015 (Jones, 2015). The
American Time Use Survey (ATUS) estimates that the percentage of workers on a given day who work at home rose from 18.6 percent in 2003 to 23.7 percent in 2018, and that average hours per day worked at home for those who worked at home rose from 2.56 hours in 2003 to 2.94 hours in 2018. Work at home done for pay as part of an arrangement with the employer–hereafter “telecommuting”—has been of increased interest to policymakers and analysts in recent years. It has
been argued that telecommuting is family-friendly, allowing the flexibility to attend to the needs of children or elderly parents (Chartrand 1997, Trinko 2013). Moreover, commuting typically scores low on measures of subjective well-being (Kahneman and Krueger 2006, Krueger et al. 2009), so telecommuting allows for commuting time to be reallocated to higher-value activities. This paper uses the ATUS to examine telecommuting. With time diaries for a single day from approximately 10,000 respondents or more for every year from 2003 through 2018, and information on the location of work, the ATUS would appear ideal to analyze trends in telecommuting. However, when analyzing work from home it is necessary to distinguish between telecommuting and unpaid overtime.
While the motivations for performing work at home and the implications for worker welfare may be quite different between telecommuting and unpaid overtime1, the basic ATUS has no means of distinguishing between them.
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