The U.S. News Best Places Data Drill Down, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that sheds light on multiple data points in order to help readers make the most informed decision when choosing where to live in the United States. Visit our 2016 Best Places to Live ranking to see which of the 100 most populous metro areas made it to the top of the list based on good value, desirability, a strong job market and high quality of life.
If you've ever dreamed of working from home full time, you may be living in the wrong place.
According to Gallup's annual Work and Education poll, the percentage of people who have telecommuted – both part- and full-time – climbed from 30 percent in 2008 to 37 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau's 2014 American Community Survey reported that nearly 4.5 percent of Americans worked from home every day.
According to Global Workplace Analytics President Kate Lister, an employee who works from home for half the work week can save his or her employer around $11,000 per year in costs by upping the rate of productivity and reducing real estate costs. "The recession brought the employer cost savings advantage of telecommuting to light," Lister explains. "That lofted the conversation to the C-Suite and the concept began being seen as a strategic rather than a tactical tool."
Here are the 10 most populous metro areas with the highest percentage of people who work from home at least half the time.
Total Workers Age 16+ (excluding unpaid family workers)
Telecommute Rate (Half-time or More)
|Santa Rosa, California||228,770||6.70|
|Colorado Springs, Colorado||316,623||5.70|
But this list doesn't tell the whole story. "Many reports include the self-employed, which substantially skews both the numbers and the trends," Lister says, noting that the home-based, self-employed population has been slowly declining since 2005, while the number of non-self-employed workers who telecommute has skyrocketed.
"[The] reality is that, like Elvis, the employees have already left the building," Lister explains. "Occupancy studies across the globe point to the fact that people are not at their desk 50 to 70 percent of the time. So whether you call it 'telecommuting' or 'just the way we do business these days,' we are already mobile."
Some of us are more mobile than others. Below are the metro areas where telecommuting is most common among workers employed by businesses or companies ranging from technology startups to defense contractors to law firms.
Total Workers Age 16+ (excluding self-employed and unpaid family workers)
Telecommute Rate for Non-Self-Employed Workers (Half-time or More)
|Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina||891,077||0.44|
|Salt Lake City||1,027,454||0.33|
|Colorado Springs, Colorado||299,268||0.23|
Note: Only nine of the 100 most populous metro areas in the United States had positive rates of telecommuting among non-self-employed workers.
Lister notes that certain occupations are more amenable to telework. "For the military, who move around a lot, telework allows spouses to easily move from place to place," she explains. "Computer-related jobs tend to be very portable whereas production jobs are not."
Areas with a larger number of telework-compatible jobs often see more people opting to work from home. "Atlanta, for example, has one of the best telework advocacy groups in the nation," Lister says. High rates of telecommuting among military members explains Colorado Springs' placement on the list. The metro area is home to several military bases and defense corporations. Meanwhile, areas like Raleigh-Durham, Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix are growing technology hubs. The customer service industry – particularly call-center jobs – are also conducive to telework, which would explain the appearance of Florida cities like Tampa and Jacksonville.
Areas with more challenging commutes also often see a higher rate of telecommuting. One of the factors we evaluated for U.S. News & World Report's inaugural Best Places to Live in the U.S. ranking was quality of life, which takes into account the average commute time in each of the nation's 100 most populous metro areas. When given the choice, quality education, health care access, crime, access to leisure amenities like parks and restaurants, and commute, 25 percent of the 2,000 people we surveyed said the commute would impact their decision to move to a new place. That's understandable given that, depending on where they live, the average person can spend up to 35 minutes traveling to work. Residents of Atlanta, for instance, spend an average of 30.4 minutes getting to work, which is the fifth-longest commute time among the metro areas evaluated for the Best Places to Live ranking.