I woke up this morning to a beautiful day. The sun lit up my house with a nice warm glow and I felt rested as I jumped out of bed. Casting a cursory glance to my clock showed that I had overslept by an hour, and this beautiful day was actually just the sun doing it’s usual thing, and I was late for work. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, I can make up the time whenever I want. However the drive to work at this time was a lot more congested then what I’m used to, with what is usually a 15 minute trip turning into over half an hour.
Casting my mind back a few months I remembered someone speaking to me about their working from home arrangements and how well it was working out for them. The idea struck me whilst I was stuck behind several other people caught up in the rat race: If a majority of people worked from home instead of a central workplace wouldn’t there be countless more benefits apart from the convenience of not having to go to work in the mornings? I know I’m not the first to think of this idea but it’s something that I felt could definitely have an impact after experiencing the horror of rush hour again after years of missing it.
The first benefit I can think of is happier employees. You’d be able to set up your own workspace as you saw fit and no one would complain if you showed up to work in your pajamas (as long as the webcam is from shoulders up, of course!). We all work better when we feel happy and the numbers show that about two thirds of telecommuting employees increase their productivity. I think this comes down to freeing people from the need to “look busy” whilst their at work and allows them to focus on actually completing tasks rather than fighting the fires that crop up at the office. I know my fiancée said she got a lot more work done in 4 hours at home then she did at the workplace, and she could take a break to watch TV on the couch; something she just couldn’t do at work.
There are also numerous cost savings for the organisation as well. Requiring less on-site infrastructure means that companies can save on things like air conditioning, facilities management, computing equipment and so on. Most telecommuting employees will use laptops which make a cheap desktop when combined with a docking station. For those that use their own computers the benefits are the same, since the company would only have to provide on-site resources if required. Companies that have implemented schemes such as this have already seen massive savings and it’s no surprise that they’re the ones still alive during these hard economic times.
One of the more obscure (and unfortunately intangible for the company until carbon trading is implemented) benefits of having a majority of employees working from home is the reduction in green house gas emissions. Whilst I don’t have any hard numbers on what the impact would be I can tell you this: In an internal combustion engine the most inefficient time for the engine to run is at idle, and this is how companies like Honda increased mileage considerably with their technologies like i-VTEC. Traffic jams cause cars to stay at idle for extended periods of time and the constant acceleration/deceleration only serves to cause excessive wear on all engine components. Spending less time in these inefficient cycles would see a reduction in green house emissions, something I’m sure everyone can appreciate.
This is not to say that it’s all roses when it comes to telecommuting, there are definitely many challenges that employees and employers must overcome before they can see the benefits. One of the biggest hurdles I see for employers is the transition from a “on the clock” model of performance to a metric based one. Employers often have a hard time figuring out how to objectively judge how their employees perform and the introduction of telecommuting forces their hand on this issue. There’s also that issue of face time with your employees and many companies put a lot of value on this. I’ve found that this is usually just because “that’s the way it’s always been done” and once they’ve done the analysis their view of telecommuting shifts very rapidly, and benefits the other non-telecommuting employees as well.
If you’re considering asking for a working from home arrangement I’d recommend this resource guide from CIO.com. There’s a lot of good information there on the pros and cons of implementing such an arrangement and it’s also aimed at the managerial level so you won’t have to rewrite it for your boss 🙂
Now to make up that hour of work I missed….