Last week, Connect Minnesota released a report on telework in Minnesota. I’m a little slow on the uptake reading it because ironically, I have been travelling to my annual summer exodus to Ireland. So I am acutely aware of the benefits of telework. To cut to the quick numbers…
According to Connect Minnesota’s 2011 Residential Technology Assessment, 22% of Minnesota adults who are employed fulltime or part-time say that they work from home, or telework.
The report paints a picture of folks who currently telework…
There is no significant difference between the share of men and women who telework in Minnesota. The same is true for employed men and women in Minnesota who do not telework. Teleworkers do tend to be younger, though, as a larger share of the non-teleworking workforce is age 45 or older. Teleworkers also tend to have higher education and higher annual incomes, with over one-half of teleworkers (51%) earning $75,000 or more (compared to only 28% of employed Minnesotans who do not telework). More than one in four employed Minnesotans who do not telework (26%) live in rural counties, compared to only 16% of teleworkers. In addition, many parents in Minnesota are using teleworking as a way to balance their work and home lives, as over one-half of teleworkers (54%) report having children at home, compared to only 42% of employees who do not telework. This means that approximately 310,000 employed Minnesota parents are able to spend more time at home, promoting job satisfaction and decreasing the amount of time they have to spend driving back and forth to work.
The report highlights some of the community benefits of telework…
- Nearly one-quarter of Minnesota teleworkers (23%) say they telework every day, rather than commute to and from work. On average, Minnesota teleworkers say they work from home 1.6 days per week (or 80 days per year).
- The average teleworker in Minnesota saves approximately 1,934 miles per year on their commute, the equivalent of a road trip from Minneapolis, MN to Los Angeles, CA.
- Each teleworker saves an average of $343.16 on car maintenance and prevents 1,411 pounds of CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere. Across the state, this equals nearly $196 million saved and 804 million fewer pounds of CO2 emission.
It’s great to have the facts and figures behind telework but I wanted to couple it with some of the recent stories we’ve posted on the blog about the benefits of teleworking. One story we haven’t posted is the my own story. I’m in Ireland. I’ll be here for 6 weeks. I suspect that had I not mentioned it, few would know the difference. I’ve been doing this sort of travel for a number of years (5?) and at this point, I won’t even bother to tell half of my clients. I don’t move for work – but I can move because of my work. It gives my husband a chance to “live back home” for a while and my kids the chance to know the Irish side of their family. The only requirement? I must have broadband.
Then I think of Dick Sjoberg at the last Broadband Task Force talking about the need for skilled workers in Northern Minnesota. He mentioned that Impact 20/20 had been trying to persuade skilled employees to move to the area (which is beautiful) but found that the north woods is not for everyone. They realized that they don’t need the people necessarily, they just need the skills and often those skills can be shared online. They are now looking into options that would encourage local employers to look into telework for staff based in other locations, such as the Twin Cities.
The flip side of that coin is Fergus Falls. They are striving to make telework part of their tapestry by encouraging local businesses to hire teleworkers, to encourage local workers to build telework-friendly skills but also by promoting themselves as a mecca for telework options. Fergus Falls has created a local telework center, they have been deploying broadband infrastructure in the area and they have actively advertised their area in and out of the state. They have found at least one company to move to the area because of the telework options and have seen much more interest in the area because of the focus.
Telework could be a way for a rural community to attract the Brain Gain demographic that is looking to move from metro to rural areas – but generally does not move for a job. They move for quality of life – but consider the possible attraction if you as a community could offer good schools, safe streets, beautiful natural surroundings and access to good jobs. It seems like a reputation worth pursuing both at the community and state level.