Telecommuting, however, can offset that. "For every 1 percent reduction in the number of cars on the road there's a 3 percent reduction in traffic congestion," according to John Edwards, chairman and founder of the Telework Coalition.
And congestion does take its toll on the economy: "The total cost of traffic congestion to the U.S. economy in lost productivity and wasted motor fuel is almost $68 billion -— or $1,160 per traveler," according to the Texas Transportation Institute's annual study to quantify traffic congestion.
(Of course, fewer cars guzzling less gas means less air pollution, which is nice both for the Earth and for those of us who live on it.)
Tools for the telework trade
Much of telework's adoption can be attributed to the all-important technologies that keep workers connected to their bosses, peers, and customers. I can certainly attest to the value of good ol' e-mail, VPN, and IM to stay safely connected to work -- plus I have a pretty standard yet mostly reliable laptop that I easily carry when I do head to the office.
Broadband adoption, of course, has been a big catalyst for telecommuting adoption. According to The Dieringer Research Group, teleworkers using broadband from home swelled by 84 percent from 2003 to and 2004, up to 8.1 million.
Not surprisingly, VoIP has also proven beneficial for helping organizations improve telecommuting options. For example, F.W. Honerkamp, a Long Island laminate distributor, has found that its outsourced voice over IP system gives the company the flexibility to hire and retain people who might not otherwise be able to come into the office. "The VoIP system is our main telephone system, and it allows us to have customer service in one place. If someone calls, we can transfer them to the appropriate expert in [another] location right away, or they can contact that person directly," the company's COO Jeff Honerkamp told Network World.
"That person" might be a remote employee in Pennsylvania, but the caller is none the wiser.
Other collaboration tools have come a long way, too. InfoWorld has looked at its fair share of Web conferencing solutions, and our analysts have been impressed. Most recently, Oliver Rist got his hands on Microsoft's new RoundTable device, which, coupled with Microsoft Live Communication Server 2007, can provide meeting participants with the ability to not only share documents and applications, but also get a 360-degree panoramic view of the meeting room where the device is set up.