So many of our sources that discuss the benefits of telecommuting are over 10 years old. Why? Is it because ratpag isn’t thorough? Is ratpag lazy? Is ratpag simply not credible?
No. Don’t let yourself ever doubt ratpag – we only use the best resources when discussing some of the most important issues facing our fragile society. So who’s to blame for our dated material? Everybody?
Our first report, published sometime around 1992, comes to us from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Transportation Impacts of Telecommuting is a lengthy patchwork report presented in small print font featuring travel forecast models extending all the way to 2002. Why do we even bother mentioning such a report? To show you just how short we’ve fallen from these projections.
The year was 1992 and optimism was on the rise in America. Boyz II Men’s End of the Road topped the charts, the nation said no to Perot and elected potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill, president, and the Major League Baseball strike was two years away. Department of Transportation researchers saw a nation with 2 million telecommuters, averaging 1-2 days per week, and forecasted a boom in remote working that could only be thought practical and sensible given the potential positive impacts and ease with which the rapidly-evolving technology would be adapted.
We never did see their 750% (to 15 million) projected increase in telecommuters (averaging 3-4 days per week) by 2002. Nor did we realize the 35.1 billion annual vehicle miles travel saved, the 1.679 billion annual gallons of gasoline preserved, the 110.3 hours saved per year per telecommuter, or the litany of other dollars, reduced emissions, or general saved time for all realized.
So what do we have? The New York Times reports (taking statistics from the American Community Survey) that telecommuting “now makes up 2.6 percent of the American work force, or 3.2 million workers.” That’s nearly one-fifth of the upper-bound projections (for 2002) from the DOT report! But we can’t cherry-pick forecasted data from such an old report and treat it like gospel.
Break: So what else happened in 1992? George Bush vomited:
The L.A. riots:
And the Cold War formally came to an end. What a year!
So how about another old report? The California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH) published a report on (supposedly) January 1, 1998 titled The Costs and Benefits of Telecommuting: An Evaluation of Macro-scale Literature. Oh God. For ratpag’s sake, and the sake of our readers, we’re only going to focus on the first part of that title.
The good PATH people cited the same DOT paper that we mentioned above, which validates us, as well as a few other interesting studies that either show a) how wildly inaccurate telecommuting forecasts were in the 90s or b) how complacent, unwilling to change, or unmotivated society is as a whole to embrace a potentially significantly beneficial new approach to work-life balance.
As with the old ratpag – we report, you decide.
So many figures to pick out. A 1994 Department of Energy study projected 17.7 million telecommuters by 2005 – a figure that would rise to 29.1 million by 2010. We didn’t quite do that! Oh, here’s one: “telecommuting could result in the avoided construction of between 2,900 and 4,500 freeway lane-miles and 4,400 to 6,700 arterial lane-miles” at a savings of between $12.97 billion and $19.96 billion. To be fair, those figures were for between 1994 and 2010 – so nearly $1 billion a year – which is good for about 0.167% of the U.S. defense budget. That just doesn’t make it seem like so much.
So of course ratpag is pro-telecommuting. And the New York Times wrote positively of it in a trend piece from earlier this year (not two decades old!), what with their mention of home-based employees working “9.5 percent longer” than office workers (we’re not in favor of that), “13 percent more productive,” and also happier with quitting rates halved. So what? (To be fair, the study cited by the Times also noted that home workers were “promoted at half the rate of their colleagues working in the office.”)
But what about other – real – organizations like the American Enterprise Institute? They’re for telecommuting, too! Yes, the AEI – the same one featuring “The Honorable Richard B. Cheney” – this same Richard B. Cheney – says telecommuting is good for workers and bosses.
We won’t pile on more numbers and facts – many of what they cite was mentioned in the Times article – but just look! Telecommuting saves time, it saves money, it leads to less emissions, it reduces stress, it’s promoted by conservatives, it’s promoted by liberals, it’s promoted by socialists – there are very few downsides. So let ratpag get deep here: all that’s stopping us is ourselves.