OK, it doesn’t have to be in your underwear (although it sure can be!), but in this article I would like to argue for the considerable social and ecological benefits of telecommuting. I love telecommuting from my strawbale cabin at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and think we would be a happier and healthier society if we did more of it.
For many bosses, telecommuting can summon images of employees playing wiffle ball or watching the Daily Show, but studies show this is not the case. Large, aggregate studies of telecommuting show increased performance as a result of: increased autonomy, more time freedom, and no loss of energy from the commute. Of course, discipline is still required, and clear measurable outcomes are a good idea. That said, I think Basecamp founder (and telecommuter) Jason Fried is on to something when he talks about how virtually no one picks work as the place they would want to go when they really need to get something done.
Higher Worker Satisfaction
In a 2008 survey, close to 40% of tech workers said they would take a 10% pay cut in exchange for the ability to telecommute, and it makes sense. Saving 1-2 hours per day of commute time is huge for busy working people, and (assuming a $.60/ expense per mile, 40 mile roundtrip, 25mpg, and a standard 48 week year) standard American commuting costs a whopping $5,760 per year!
More than just saving money, a Cisco survey had 80% of respondents reporting an improved quality of life, and 91% saying that telecommuting is “somewhat or very important to their overall satisfaction.” These results don’t just hold for Cisco, though. In a large mata analysis on telecommuting published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers found “that telecommuters reported more job satisfaction, less motivation to leave the company, less stress, improved work-family balance, and higher performance ratings by supervisors.”
Lower Ecological Footprint
In the 2008 Cisco example, telecommuting prevented close to 50 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions through prevented travel. Scale this over the whole workforce (estimates are that 40% of the workforce could telecommute, only 5% of this number now do) and the benefits are huge. They are even larger when you think about additional possible benefits like companies having smaller offices, people having only one laptop (instead of a work and personal computers), and less crowded public transportation during rush hour.
Tips For Convincing Your Boss to Let you Telecommute
- Let your boss know large companies like Cisco and Sun Microsystems are doing it.
- Point out the large eco benefits.
- Show them the research showing increased worker productivity and decreased turnover.
- If they are hesitant, ask for a short term trial they can revoke if they are not completely pleased.
- Define clear measurable metrics you will hold yourself to (e.g. a certain amount of articles, sales, code, etc.).
- Offer to take a small pay cut (that you will more than make up for in fuel savings).
Brian Toomey lives at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, enjoying breaks with his girlfriend (a latin tutor over Skype) and telecomutes as a web and sustainable business consultant for Kranichs Jewelers and Appoutdoors.
Photo Credit: colorblindPICASO
One of the reasons some employers may not think telecommuting is a good idea is that they worry about the issue of security, and even if they find a secure video conferencing product, it will be too expensive. The U.S. Federal Government has set forth some very strict standards for the assurance of true end-to-end security in the form of their NIST FIPS 140-2 Certification list. Currently there are four (4) vendors who have met these standards, and one (1) of them is web based. What this means is that users can turn their existing laptop/desktop, equipped with a simple webcam, into a sophisticated virtual meeting workstation. In a single download users will have access to unlimited meetings and presentations, HD video, CD quality audio, Desktop Sharing, unlimited recordings and playbacks, secure Instant Messaging, unlimited files for Shared Workspaces, Whiteboarding, Voting, Polling and more….all of these features with no additional hardware required. Security and affordability all in one product!
And if you’re in one of the areas of the country experiencing winter storms (I’m in icy Atlanta right now and very thankful that I work from home for http://www.flexjobs.com), use these “snow days” as trial work-at-home days to prove to your boss that you’ll have fewer absences, be more productive, and save the company time and money if you work from home.
Another good argument – people who work from home are much less likely to get sick because they are around fewer other people during the day. Fewer sick days = more productivity = money and time saved for the company yet again.
No matter which way you argue it, telecommuting is great for everyone involved.
great points, Brie