Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Time to Telecommute

I’m not sure why, but I don’t hear much from the leadership in this country encouraging employers to move toward telecommuting as a means of conserving energy. I have no statistics at hand, but the amount of gasoline that could be saved by allowing workers to do their desk jobs from home must be astronomical.

I was listening to a story on telecommuting on NPR this morning and I get the sense that employees are no increasingly bringing up the idea to their employers as a way to cut down on their commuting expenses. Some employers are giving in to the notion rather than lose employees that can no longer afford to drive to work.

In the age of the internet, there really isn’t any reason many of us couldn’t be working from home. I’d dare say I could do all of my work from my home office. I can’t think of a single thing I couldn’t do with a computer, internet connection and phone line. I can say that because those are exactly the tools I use at my desk at work. I often email or IM the guy who sits right next to me.

Mrs. TEH already has a telecommuting job. She works full time for a large out of state employer from home. A few years ago we turned out largely unused front living room into an office. Her employer provided a desk, the computer, an internet connection and any office supplies she needs. She saves on gasoline and wardrobe and we can write-off a portion of our house expenses on our taxes. She has never even met most of her coworkers in person. And the work gets done.

I realize that for a lot of industries (retail, manufacturing, service, construction) telecommuting would be close to 100% impossible. But there are a lot of us cube rats that are wasting gas everyday driving to work we could do at home.

I think some employers are resistant to the idea because of the inertia of workplace “tradition:” and a distrust that workers would be doing their jobs as efficiently as they would at a central workplace. Some of that distrust may be warranted but if employers would focus more on task completion as a measure of productivity rather than operating from a clock punching mentality, that problem will work itself out. I suspect the lazy stay at home workers are the some one’s who are going to goof off at their desk in the office as well.

Another measure to consider is offering a four day, 10-hour a day, work week. I actually took advantage of this option way back in 1999 when gas was about $1.25/gal. I was commuting from Springfield to Bloomington and cutting 20% of my commuting time and expense was a great thing. And every weekend was a three day weekend! Again that’s not of everyone or every job but it’s another effective way to conserve energy.

It’s time for employers to become flexible in these matters. Even if they can’t practically have their employees at home full time, maybe one or two days a week would work. Or some combination of telecommuting and a 4 x 10 work week. There are lots of options and its time employees and employers start exploring them.

1 comment:

geek_guy said...

A co-worker here used to do the 4 x 10 commute to Peoria (Worked for Cat) a few years ago. Another co-worker here moved to St. Louis (for his wife's job) and he telecommutes 3-4 days a week. As a programmer, I work with other programmers from other companies that telecommute (multi-state). I have telecommuted a few times when I had to watch a sick kid or had a slight flu that I didn't want to spread. During the summer, it's harder with the kids at home.