Green and Beyond: The Hard and Soft Benefits of Telecommuting

Ross Sedgewick
Ross Sedgewick serves as director of strategic marketing at Siemens Enterprise Communication , leveraging 20 years of management experience in enterprise software, telecom, CRM, channel management and solution marketing.

Similar to the quality movements of the late 20th century, becoming a green enterprise today may provide your business a competitive advantage. Very soon, however, being a green enterprise will become an operational imperative and bring your organization considerable savings. Fortunately, enterprises can substantially reduce both their operational costs and carbon footprint by making one simple change: introducing a telecommuting program for knowledge workers.

 

But why now? Why should you seriously consider embracing a telecommuting program at this time? Here are a few compelling reasons:

 

  • Global Talent: Globally distributed organizations compete for globally dispersed talent. Telecommuting programs help you attract talent far from your traditional headquarters or physical office buildings.
  • Young Talent: Today's college graduates expect and demand the flexibility of telecommuting. Not having these programs hampers your ability to recruit the young talent your company needs.
  • Loyalty: Telecommuting programs create a greater sense of loyalty in your work force. These programs reduce (or eliminate) your employees' need to commute. This literally gives them hours of their lives back while also saving them money and reducing their personal carbon footprint. An employee who enjoys the financial benefits and flexibility of telecommuting is hard for your competitor to lure away.
  • Pay for Less Energy: Telecommuting programs decrease office-based energy consumption because the telecommuter bears the energy costs for the remote office equipment.
  • Use Less Real Estate: Telecommuting programs reduce the amount of office space required, saving your company huge sums of money year after year.

 

Additionally, an organization with telecommuting programs can market itself as a green employer, thereby attracting an increasing number of candidates who openly value environmental responsibility. "Fortunately for the environment, going green reduces both carbon footprints and costs," writes Tim Clark of the FactPoint Group, a Silicon Valley research firm. Going green with telecommuting affords benefits well beyond costs. Key areas where telecommuting programs deliver additional value to an organization include:

 

  • Corporate Responsibility: Going green is one of today's hottest and most widespread trends. Being green improves your image. For a business, this means being better positioned to attract a fast-growing segment of environmentally aware-and demanding-customers and employees. A sound telecommuting program is an effective way for enterprises to get in on the green scene while enjoying substantial savings on real estate and energy.
  • Employee Talent: In a May 2008 online survey, the Telework Coalition found that 87 percent of respondents would limit a job search based on potential cost of commuting. In fact, 28 percent of respondents said they were already looking for a new job because of commuting costs. By offering telework to key employees with skills that are hard to replace, enterprises build loyalty by enabling a better work-life balance, while minimizing employees' commuting expenses.
  • Work Force Productivity: It's no secret that happy and relaxed workers are more productive than those who are overwhelmed and stressed by the challenges of balancing family obligations, a long commute, and a full-time job. In a 2008 survey by Computing Technology Industry Association (Comp TIA), 67 percent of respondents said their organizations were productive thanks to part-time and full-time telecommuting. Similarly, in the March 2008 issue of The TeleWorker, American Express said its telecommuters produce 43 percent more business than in-office workers.
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Natural disasters, the threat of terrorism and workplace violence have all forced companies to look at different ways to protect their most valuable asset-their people. Increasingly organizations are looking at business continuity planning, and while most managers view IT systems as the major component of a business continuity plan, telework plays a vital role in keeping operations going should something happen to the corporate office.
  • Availability to Customers: Customers need access to your organization and increasingly expect support outside of standard business hours-particularly in a crisis. Delivering this level of customer support-whether in a formal call center or by simply increasing the hours in which customer-service representatives are available-is greatly eased by providing employees easy access to enterprise communications from their homes.

 


If the green precepts of reuse, reduce, and recycle can be expanded to include resources such as space, equipment, energy, and human capital, then telecommuting is the single best green initiative an enterprise can make. Investment is minimal and the returns are great. Enterprises that offer telework vastly improve their corporate image while increasing their competitiveness with a growing segment of demanding and environmentally aware customers. They also increase their ability to attract and retain their industry's top employee talent. Over time, enterprises that offer telework virtually always experience employee productivity increases and clear cost reductions. Most importantly telework programs deliver a measurable impact on the environment-the most significant and enduring advantage of all.



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Jun 10, 2009 4:45 AM Kate Lister Kate Lister  says:

Great to see this blog written by someone other than a telework advocate, like myself.

If the 50 million people in the U.S. who hold telework compatible jobs did so just half of the time (roughly the national average for those who already do):

- The nation would save 453 million barrels of oil (57% of Gulf oil imports) valued at over $19 billion per year.

- The environment would be saved from 84 million tons or greenhouse gases a year--the equivalent of taking 15 million cars off the road.

- 150,000 people/year would be saved from traffic-related injury or death.

- $18 billion a year would be saved in accident-related costs.

- National productivity would increase by 6.2 million man-years or $200 billion worth of work each year.

- Businesses would save $194 billion annually in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover.

- Employees would individually save between $2,500 and $11,000 in transportation and work-related costs. In addition, many would also be able to cut daycare and eldercare costs.

- Consumers would save $31 billion a year at the pumps (based on $3.50/gallon).

- Communities would save over $3 billion in highway maintenance because 180 billion fewer miles would be driven each year.

- Employees would gain back an extra 2.5 weeks worth of  time per year--time they'd have otherwise spent commuting.

Over the past three years, my partner and I have synthesized over 250 studies on telecommuting and related topics. We've interviewed dozens of telework advocates and challengers including top researchers, venture capitalists, Fortune 500 executives, virtual employers, online job board executives and users, and dozens of home-based workers in a wide variety of professions. Companies, legislators, and community leaders have used their research to promote telework programs throughout the U.S. and Canada. Our Telework Savings Calculator is available free for public, corporate and government use at http://undress4success.com. It quantifies what every city, county, region, Congressional District, and State in the nation could save through telecommuting / work-from-home initiatives. A customize option allows users to change more than a dozen variables to model their own company or community savings potential.

It's time to make the road less traveled the way to work.

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Jun 23, 2009 1:06 AM aullman aullman  says:

The benefits of telecommuting are enormous to individuals and to the nation/world in general.  The key is to get widespread adoption of the telecommuting model, so that it is the "norm" rather than the exception.

Many companies are not comfortable with home telecommuting because of questions regarding reliability of home networking and concerns about distractions.  Many of these issue can be addressed by allowing workers to work from remote offices.

Remote Office Centers lease individual offices, internet and phone systems to workers from different companies in shared centers located around the city and suburbs.

ROCs are just one more option for workers who want to cut back on commuting, but may not have the facilities to work from home.

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