Environmental and organizational needs, coupled with evolving technologies, make telecommuting programs look better every day
I love my morning commute. Sometimes, there are delays, though, thanks to a pile-up or a clean-up effort. The pile-up, however, is generally just laundry that needs to go into the wash. The clean-up occurs if my cat has decided to demonstrate her eco-concern by recycling her breakfast. (I applaud most recycling efforts, but I question the reusability value of hairballs.)
Generally, though, it's about 15 seconds from my bed to my desk. Yep, I'm a telecommuter. I work out of my home office in Sacramento 90 percent of the time; I head to the InfoWorld office in San Francisco, voluntarily, every other Friday.
I count myself fortunate that InfoWorld recognizes the value of offering telecommuting -- not just for me but for the company. Other companies do it, too: Apple, AT&T, Cisco, HP, Sun, Xerox, and Yahoo, just to name a few, have telework programs in place. In fact, according to the Telework Coalition, more than 45 million people telecommute at least once a week. In 2005, 44 percent of U.S. companies offered at least some telecommuting options, according to a survey by Mercer Human Resources Consulting. That figure was up from 32 percent in 2001. The greatest increase in the number of teleworkers, 57 percent, occurred in medium-sized businesses, according to the ITAC, the Telework Advisory Group for WorldatWork.
And there's an abundance of research out there demonstrating that telecommuting programs not only result in greater environmental benefits due to fewer pollution-spewing vehicles on the road, they deliver cost savings for organizations.
On top of the cost and environmental benefits, technological innovations (such as easily accessible and reliable high-speed Internet access, inexpensive and sturdy laptops, maturing collaboration products as well as SaaS, VoIP, VPNs, and so forth) contribute to making telecommuting increasingly attractive and viable for companies.
Profitting from telecommuting
The environmental benefits of telecommuting are pretty apparent, but business leaders no doubt want to be sure that giving employees the green light to telecommute yields bottom-line benefits. Based on the successes enjoyed by the various companies, the answer appears to be a resounding yes.
For starters, the ITAC found that employers can realize an annual per-employee savings of $5,000 through implementing telecommuting programs. "Your organization could save one office for every three teleworkers (that's about $2,000 per teleworker per year, or $200,000 per 100 teleworkers)," according to the Canadian Telework Assocation(CTA).