Large companies such as Yahoo! and Best Buy recently have made headlines with new policies that prohibit working from home. This runs counter to the growing trend of more Americans telecommuting. According to a U.S. Census Bureau study published last year, the number of Americans working at home increased from 3.6% to 4.3% from 2005 to 2010.
While less than 2% of the labor force in some metropolitan areas work from their residences full time, in some areas it is far more. In three metro areas, including Boulder, Colo.; Santa Fe, N.M.; and Bremerton-Silverdale, Wash., at least 10% of the workforce calls the office home. Based on Census data, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 metro areas where the most people work from home.
Nearly half of people who work from home were self-employed, according to the Census bureau. In several of the cities with the most at-home workers, the proportion of workers who are self-employed is very high. In Medford, 11% worked from home, the seventh highest of all metro areas. In the Santa Fe metro area, 13.8% of all workers worked from home, a higher percentage than all other areas.
The metro areas on our list are not the largest in the country, where big employers are typically located. However, many are relatively close to large cities. For example, Bremerton is connected to Seattle via an hour-long ferry ride, while Boulder is only 25 miles from Denver.
John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in an interview with 24/7 Wall St. that places where there are a lot of employees working from home tend to be on the outskirts of larger metropolitan areas. As people moved out to the exurbs in recent decades, it became harder for workers to commute into the office on a daily basis. Many companies, not wanting to lose these employees, allowed them to telecommute.
In addition, Challenger pointed out that people working from home are able to work from basically anywhere, and choose to live in highly desirable areas. Many cities with a disproportionate number of residents that work at home are in the Rockies and near the West Coast are particularly appealing to flexible workers due to the outdoor attractions of the mountains and the open space for activities like hiking and biking.
“I’ve talked with a number of people in the last several years who have said, ‘I’ve moved from job to job and I’ve just decided that I’m going to pick a city and that’s going to be home base,’” Challenger noted.
“There are more early adopter companies [in the West] than there are in other areas of the country,” Challenger said, pointing out that the employers, often in technology, are more flexible about allowing people to telecommute.
It isn’t entirely clear whether the trend of working from home will continue. Job growth is taking place at two levels, Gary Burtless, a senior fellow of economic studies at the Brookings Institution, said in an interview. A significant amount is a due to an increase in low-skilled jobs in retail, groundskeeping and fast-food, where telecommuting isn’t practical.
However, high-skilled are also growing. As the Internet and cloud computing becoming increasingly important, “many these people can work in their pajamas,” Burtless said.
Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 metropolitan areas where highest percentage of the labor force works from home every day of the week. We reviewed additional workforce data including median earnings, median age of workers, average commute time and the division of labor based on industry. All data was provided by the Census Bureau, excluding unemployment, which is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These are the 10 cities where the most Americans work from home.