Just how much of an impact can telecommuting have on the environment? According to a 2007 report from the U.S. Consumer Electronics Association, 3.9 million people in the United States worked from home at least one day a week. By avoiding an average 22-mile commute to work, the practice saved about 840 million gallons of gas -- equal to taking 2 million cars off the road for a year. (The findings did take into account the increased power use at home that comes with telecommuting.) The report indicated that an estimated 53 million American workers could take up telecommuting, which would represent an annual reduction in CO2 emissions equivalent to taking more than 27 million vehicles off the road. Put another way, taking a million workers off the road can save 927,369 tons of CO2 per year, according to Work Wise UK/RAC Foundation.
4. Telecommuting is a big incentive for current and prospective employees. We're facing tough economic times, and just about everyone's feeling the pain -- even my cats, who now get generic cat food instead of Fancy Feast. One of the selling points for telecommuting is it's not just potentially good for the bottom line, as I've discussed; it can also be used as a reward to attract and retain good workers. Being able to work from home improves work-life balance, saves money on fuel and car repair, and relieves headaches and aggravation of daily commutes.
[ Sun's U.S. employees saved big-time on fuel and car repairs thanks to telecommuting. ]
For example, if your company has been forced to implement salary cuts or slice benefits, you can soften the blow by permitting employees to telecommute, whether part-time or every day. Alternatively, it can be an enticing and potentially less-expensive reward for good work in lieu of a pay raise.
Additionally, if you're wooing a would-be employee with a stellar record but can't quite meet his or her salary expectations (and/or can't afford to relocate the person), the promise of telecommuting could sway your prospect. According to a compensation survey of 1,400 CFOs conducted by Robert Half International, 46 percent said telecommuting is second only to salary as the best way to attract top talent; 33 percent said telecommuting was the top draw.
Although the business (and environmental) case for telecommuting is compelling, I'd never claim that implementation is easy. Advances in wireless computing and collaboration software, as well as increased availability of broadband, make telecommuting programs easier to implement from a technological standpoint.
[ Cisco has developed a "remote office in a box" to help get teleworkers quickly connected and up and running. ]
But there's still the matter of managing remote workers to be productive and connected with the rest of the organization. There are resources out there to help companies create an effective telecommuting program. One place to start: Do the opposite of "10 sure-fire ways to kill telecommuting."