11,000 reasons to work from home

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

Hate your commute? If so, consider Michael Estrin’s story about working from home a must-read. It includes one very important number for anyone looking to telecommute.

The number is $11,000.

That’s the estimated savings employers can expect — per year– for every worker who’s allowed to log in from home at least part of the week. The estimate comes from Global Workplace Analytics, a San Diego firm that gathers and analyzes data about the American workplace.

Global Workplace says that nearly half of U.S. workers have a job that can be brought home at least part of the time. And if everyone did, it would translate to a savings of roughly $900 billion a year for employers.

Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace, helped us break down that $11,000 statistic — just in case you wanted to really take a telecommuting request to your boss. Here’s how the savings add up:

  • Companies that allow workers to stay home essentially transfer some of their operating costs to their employees. They can get by with smaller offices, and they’ll use less electricity. The overall drop in real-estate costs amounts to about $3,037 per telecommuter.
  • Surprisingly, Lister says, workers tend to be more productive at home. Yes, you’ll probably make more trips to the refrigerator, and there’s always the lure of the TV. But offices are even more likely to divert your attention, she says. Co-workers, bless them, are happy to carve out time to compare bread recipes or discuss the nuances of fantasy football. Altogether, Global Workplace estimates that companies will save a whopping $5,764 per worker who stays home.
  • Telecommuting also makes people happier, and that keeps them loyal. Companies that foster a work-from-home lifestyle can expect less turnover, and therefore fewer days lost replacing employees. That savings averages to about $761 per worker.
  • Because they’re happier, telecommuters are less likely to take days off. They no longer need a break from the politics and anxiety that usually go with the territory in many offices. The overall savings from fewer “sick” days comes to about $1,134 per employee.

Breaking down the cost savings of telecommuting workers

Savings Annual amount per worker
Increased productivity $5,764
Less office space, electricity $3,037
Fewer sick days $1,134
Less turnover $761
Total savings $10,695

Source: Global Workplace Analytics

Altogether, this amounts to a total savings of about $10,695 per worker, or $11,000 if you round it up. That doesn’t even include estimated health care savings, since telecommuters are less likely to be exposed to the filth of the subways or streets. And there may be even more savings, if you think about it. Companies that employ telecommuters will spend less on subway tickets, parking passes and other commuter-related perks given to workers.

Admittedly, Lister is very much of an advocate for telecommuting. She’s worked from home for years. Still, the numbers speak for themselves, she says. They come from the U.S. Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a stack of industry data.

Employers will still find reasons to keep everyone in the office, she says, especially for smaller companies and startups. They may want their workers close by, for example, to absorb the company’s unique culture. They may want to better communicate the excitement and energy that come with producing something new.

Lister has heard a number of reasons, though most boil down to one main issue: If employees are allowed to stay home, how do you know they’re really working?

“The counter to that is: How do you know they’re working in the office?” Lister says. “I mean, everyone’s seen that crazy-cat-playing-the-piano video. Where do you think they saw it?”

Play us out, keyboard cat!