GreenYour Staff commuting
Allow employees to telecommute
Allowing employees to telecommute is a boon for business, employees, and the environment alike. Encouraging telecommuting allows companies to realize cost savings and productivity improvements. Employees also save time and avoid the stress of commuting, while removing CO2-emitting vehicles from the road.
How to encourage employees to telecommute
Also known as a flexplace or telework program, telecommuting is the process by which employees use computers and other telecommunications equipment to conduct office work and interface with colleagues from home or a remote site. You can approach employee requests for telecommuting options on a case-by-case basis, or set up a formal telecommuting policy that will guide all future decisions in this area. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Assess whether telecommuting is suitable for your office. Jobs dealing with sensitive information, requiring expensive or specialized equipment, constant teamwork, or hands-on collaboration and supervision may not be suitable. However, those positions requiring less interaction and only a phone, computer, printer, and fax machine (such as positions involving writing, programming, or sales) may be highly suitable.
- Outline the parameters. Articulate when employees should be working, and how many hours they're to work; reporting and communication expectations; the time of regular meetings (using videoconferencing or instant messaging); how their work will be evaluated; and when they should report to the office in person.
- Provide your employees with necessary technology. Telecommuting employees will likely require a computer with high-speed Internet access (including intranet system access to your company’s data and files), a telephone line (including voicemail), and teleconferencing tools (such as a webcam, speakers, microphone, messaging programs, etc.). You may also want to provide furniture, supplies, and other electronic equipment, such as a printer, fax machine, and/or scanner. It's important to provide technical assistance for times when telecommuters have trouble with their computer or phone system. Offering technical training before sending an employee home to work may prevent future technical problems.
- Prepare your staff. In order to maintain a cordial working environment, you may need to communicate with non-commuters to explain why some positions are suitable for commuting and others aren't. In addition, management may need to be re-educated about how to supervise people in a telecommuting environment.
- Maintain equitable work assignments and performance rewards. A common pitfall of managers working with telecommuters and non-telecommuters is to assume that those at the office are more productive and therefore more deserving of reward. Good managers will work to evaluate all employees fairly, rewarding when appropriate.
- Organize in-person team-building events. In order to maintain a cohesive team and to avoid employees feeling isolated, you may want to plan formal or informal get-togethers.
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Allowing employees to telecommute helps your office go green because...
- It reduces the number of cars on the road—and carbon dioxide emissions—as more employees stay home.
- When employees work from home, there's less need to expand and improve new and existing buildings and infrastructure to accommodate a growing workforce (which requires resource-intensive new materials).
It's estimated that close to 8,000 employees join the telecommuting workforce per day, with approximately 44 million Americans currently working from home. By cutting down on office and parking space, boosting employee morale and productivity, and reducing commuting costs, your company will be saving resources as well as cash.
Fewer greenhouse gases
In terms of environmental benefits, the average office worker, traveling nearly 6,000 miles per year, can save $1,000 annually in gasoline and prevent 6,000 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere by working from home. Hewlett Packard estimates that its telework program, which currently consists of 13,000 employees working exclusively from home, saved 2.5 million round-trip commutes, 65 million miles of road travel, and 28,000 tons of CO2 emissions in 2006.
Reduced infrastructure requirements
When employees work from home, less floor space is needed for offices, thus reducing real estate costs (up to 60 percent, according to Telework America), as well as hydro, electricity, heating, and cooling costs. In addition, offices save money by buying less office equipment such as copiers, fax machines, and phones. Offices with telecommuters require fewer parking spaces, which reduces the need to construct new and/or maintaining old parking facilities. This can amount to savings of $1,500-$6,000 per person per year.
Additionally, telecommuters mean fewer parking requirements. The capital costs of a single surface parking space can range from $2,000-$5,000; a space in a two to three story structure anywhere from $10,000-$12,000. In addition, these parking spaces must be maintained, at a cost of 1.5 percent on the initial capital cost per year. These concrete auto storage units decrease permeable surface area, increase water runoff and pollution, and to the extent that they encourage people to use vehicles, also increase air pollution, congestion, noise, and motor vehicle accidents.
Many corporations, both large and small, are saving by allowing employees to telecommute. Examples include Georgia Department of Education, which saves $27,000, IBM which saves $3 million at their Indiana office, and GE Medical Systems which saves $1.75 million annually. Allowing employees to work from home can also open the door for persons with disabilities who otherwise cannot commute to a traditional office job.
Improved employee morale and productivity
Employees also benefit from telecommuting arrangements, most importantly by the time they save. In one Clean Air Campaign case study, employees reported saving an average of two hours per day in commute time. Individuals working from home also reap financial benefits by working off-site: reduced vehicle operating costs; tolls; parking fees; and clothing costs.
With more time and less stress, employee morale increases, as well as their ability to cope with every day life issues (family, legal, automobile, etc.). Teleworking staff are better able to juggle work obligations with personal commitments and inclement weather, resulting in up to 25 percent fewer reported absentee days.
These benefits tend to increase job satisfaction, which in turn results in increased productivity and decreased absenteeism. Most companies realize a 10-20 percent increase in productivity from employees who work from home, possibly because employees often find they work better without workplace distractions.
- RoHS: Passed by the European Union in 2006, the Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS), is a standard for the amount of lead, mercury, and other toxic substances in electronics. Japan also complies with the EU's standards but the US does not.
- Best Workplaces for Commuters: Offers good information for businesses looking to encourage employees to opt out of solo-commuting habits.
- Commmuter Challenge - Telework: Good Reasons & Great Tools
- Gil Gordon: On the health benefits of allowing telecommuting in your office.
- Joanne H Pratt Telework Futurists’: List of teleworking resources and publications.
- A Guide to Telework in the Federal Government: Put out by the US Office of Personnel Management.
- Work Support’s: Information for businesses on hiring people with disabilities for teleworking positions.
- World Environmental Organization’s: 100 Top Telecommuting Sites.
- Washington State University: Provides online courses for both employees and managers on how to manage teleworking arrangements.
- Find Articles: Telecommuting Program - Is “Flexplace” Suited to Your Organization
- TreeHugger - How to Green Your Work
- The Christian Science Monitor - Telecommuting as Energy Saver
- Hewlett Packard - Employee travel & commuting
- National Transportation Library - Transportation Implications of Telecommuting
- Find Articles - Telecommuting Program: Is “Flexplace” Suited to Your Organization
- Clean Air Campaign - Teleworking: An Expert's Opinion