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Why Don't You Telecommute?

UCD-ITS-RP-97-36

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Suggested Citation:
Salomon, Ilan and Patricia L. Mokhtarian (1997) Why Don't You Telecommute?. Access Magazine (10), 27 - 29

Telecommuting promises to benefit everyone. Employees can avoid time-consuming trips to work, permitting a more flexible, family and community-oriented lifestyle. Employers can reduce their costs of expensive office space, while drawing on a larger and more diverse labor pool. Air quality may improve with reduced automobile trips.

But chances are you aren’t telecommuting. There are far fewer telecommuters than enthusiasts have predicted. In California, only 1 to 1.5 percent of the workforce telecommutes on any given day. One consultant estimated there will be 25 million telecommuters in the U.S. by the year 2000. But since there are currently only about 8 to 9 million, that’s unlikely.

Why is there such a gap between predicted and actual telecommuting? It may be the result of the forecasting method. Predictions are often based on simple answers to simple survey questions, such as: “Would you like to telecommute?” People impulsively respond positively, assuming they’ll prefer working at home. Most end up not telecommuting, suggesting that few conclusions can be drawn from such surveys.

To understand the potential for telecommuting, we studied how individuals decide whether to do it. We did not address related questions, including employers’ permission to telecommute, government policies on telecommuting, and so on. Our research focused on the ramifications of technology for individual and society behavior.