Commuting promotes telecommuting

As time marches on the daily commute gets longer according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As an article by Christopher Ingraham in the 16 September 2017 Washington Post points out, the average commute time in the U.S. has grown to 26.6 minutes each way. Among other consequences, this has promoted steady progress in telecommuting.

Let’s go through the numbers. Assume that the average American worker works 49 weeks annually after vacation and holidays are omitted from the total of 52 weeks. At 5 work days per week and two commute trips per work day that’s 490 commute trips annually. At 26.6 minutes per commute trip we find that the average commuter is spending 13,034 minutes, or 217.23 hours annually sitting in traffic. That’s 5.4 40-hours work weeks! More than a month of workdays uncompensated.

I assume, of course, that you are not compensated for your commute time at your normal hourly wage or salary. If you are, lucky you!

cartoon of commuting

Now let’s look at the amount of time telecommuters spend on the road. If they work from home then there are zero uncompensated hours while they are telecommuting. Zero hours!

The Census Bureau also says that 5% of American workers worked from home full time in 2016. I suspect that’s an undercount but it’s higher than I anticipated back in the 1970s. So those 5 percenters have achieved the recovery of their entire 5.4 annual work weeks to do whatever they wish.

My 1990ish forecast for 2016 was that there would be about 44 million telecommuters in the U.S., only about 2% of them full time. Reality is more optimistic. I also forecast that the average telecommuter from home would do it about half time. Those half-timers would be saving 2.7 work weeks to do whatever they want. Actually, since the average telecommuter has a longer commute distance than the average commuter, the saving is even greater.

Those numbers do not include the hard to quantify side effects of telecommuting such as reduced stress, improved health, greater likelihood of participating in community affairs and improved family togetherness. Have I mentioned the additional free time? Here are some conclusions by a telecommuter on the pros and cons.

Still, as all-electric autonomous cars begin to appear and we all sell our old driver-required cars (to whom?) those commute trips may become much more relaxing, even entertaining.

Whenever that happens.

Can you hardly wait?

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