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Remote Offices - Flex Scheduling's Impact on the Environment

by Jocelyn Broyles (bio)

Published 7/13/11


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As gas prices rise and everyone, from individuals to corporations, is more aware of their daily impact on the environment, telecommuting becomes an increasingly appealing option for many employees and their employers. The other appealing aspect of telecommuting is the positive effect it has on the environment by reducing the amount of people commuting to work. One possible option, in addition to buying environmentally-friendly office products, is to offer employees the option of working from home on a part-time or full-time basis.

Not every job is appropriate for telecommuting, but often those in fields where the employee needs little office support; is a self-starter; or spends most hours outside of the office, are the ones best suited for out-of-office work, including information technology, writing, outside sales, law, event production and accounting/bookkeeping. Many jobs suitable to telecommuting necessitate occasional on-site participation, but the majority of work can be done from home.

"At Smith Brothers Insurance in Glastonbury, Conn., for example, 50 of its 57 employees telecommute either full-time or as needed. Their program started four years ago when the company wanted to retain a valuable employee who was moving to Texas. "It's a great recruiting tool," says Kim Connolly, Vice President and part-owner of Smith Brothers Insurance. "It is good for our employees, particularly our sales force. They don't have to come into the office after sales calls to check e-mails; they can check messages and do their paperwork from home. When someone has a cold, they can work from home and not risk spreading germs to their co-workers. [1]

Commuting to Work in a Traffic Jam
Telecommuting = Green

If more employers allow their employees to telecommute it will reduce the number of cars filling the roads each rush hour.

In a paper published on Gilgordon.com, it was found that telecommuting, "Reduces the number of people job hopping [and therefor] decreases training requirements, [and that] much of this job hopping is because people want to move to a new location. They enjoy their work, and they would keep working for their present employer, but they do not like their present location. If people could move without losing their jobs, because they could telecommute, the amount of retraining would be reduced substantially. This would increase overall employee productivity while keeping loyal and productive employees on board." [2]

As discovered by Telework, companies can even save money by encouraging telecommuting positions, as "More than one-third of technology professionals said they’d cut their salary by up to 10 percent in exchange for telecommuting full-time. Most companies [who have worked with Telework] report an increase in performance...from 20% to 25%. Best Buy has quantified an increase in employee productivity at 35%. " [3]

Saving money is a key factor for both parties in the telecommuting discussion, but lowering stress and creating more productive employees proves to be another compelling argument for telecommuting. According to the study by Gilgordon.com, telecommuting, "Improves health by reducing stress related to compromises made between family and work. Telecommuting offers a renewed opportunity for workers to [create] work-at-home productivity [by] not compromising either their family living or their job productivity. [2]

Home Office Freedome
Home Office Freedom

Telecommuting is not only good for the environment but can also have other advantages and improve your quality of life!

Besides being good financially for the company, and good emotionally for the employee, telecommuting is good for the environment. A study by UndressForSuccess.com found that, "if those employees who could work from home (and wanted to) did so just half of the time (roughly the average for those who do), as a nation we’d save over $650 billion a year, reduce greenhouse gases by the equivalent of taking 9 million cars off the road, and be able to reduce our Persian Gulf oil imports by 37%." [4]

With relatively little change to standard office procedure - less than half a week of telecommuting by about half of all white-collar workers - would could save $38.2 billion gallons of gas each year, and according to an article on Earth911.com, "Eighty-four percent of Americans depend on their own means of transportation to travel to and from work. On average, these workers spend $2,052 on gas and 264 hours of travel time a year just on commuting alone." [5]

Given the economical, emotional and environmental benefits of telecommuting, it becomes a win-win situation for many employers and their employees, creating a new type of relationship that harkens back to the days of long-term employment with one company. The key to maintaining a successful telecommuting program is having a system in place for each telecommuting position, with clear benchmarks for performance and goals for both employee and employer, creating a synergistic relationship in which money, energy (both mental and environmental) and time are saved by both parties, in turn strengthening the relationship, performance and satisfaction on both sides of the equation.

[1] "Telecommuting 101" by Kate Lorenz, for CareerBuilder.com

[2] From Gilgordon.com

[3] From 494corridor.org

[4] From UndressForSuccess.com (numbers from 2008)

[5] "Telecommuting Two Days a Week Could Save Billions" by Katherine J. Chen, published March 12, 2010 on Earth911.com