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Telecommuting

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Introduction[edit]

Telecommuting is a work arrangement for which an employee is allowed flexibility in their working location and hours. Its main purpose and advantage is that it reduces the need to commute to a central place of work. Instead, the employee works at a remote location (such as their home) while in contact with the workplace through telecommunication links, such as video conferencing.

Technology[edit]

By definition "telecommuting" means replacing an employee's regular daily commute to work, in a personal car or public transit, with virtual communication. This communication could take the form of e-mails or phone messages, although most businesses will generally link employees through a remote network access. This allows them access to data stored on a company network. In the interest of security, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is usually used. A VPN allows employees to securely access the company’s network through making use of an insecure network such as the Internet.

Long distance telework is further facilitated by the progressive decrease in cost of telecommunication and improvements in personal computers (such as Laptops and Wi-Fi adapters). With the increasing availability of tools such as groupware, conference calling, videoconferencing, and Voice Over IP (VOIP), the need to physically travel to a centralized place of work diminishes further.

Advantages[edit]

To the employer[edit]

  • Reduces the need for office space, resulting in reduced company costs (less utilities consumed, less required parking space, less required work space, available office space can be shared by multiple employees by "office hoteling")[1]. On average, in 1995, energy costs were $1.51 per square foot of office space per year (with larger commercial buildings at about $1.19 per square foot per year)[2]. AT&T reported that $550 million in cash flow had been made between 1991 and 1998 due to telecommuting employees. [3]
  • An agency may find that by offering the flexibility to work from home, they can hire back a retiree with the right specialized experience to do a job on a part-time, rather than full-time, basis.[4]
  • When properly managed, can increase employee efficiency.[5]
  • In the event of a disaster, where workers can no longer use or reach their office, telecommuters are able to continue business.
  • In the event of employee sickness or personal issues that don't allow them to travel, work can still be done.

Office hoteling[1] can be taken advantage of by the employer in order to reduce office space requirements as each office can be used by multiple employees on separate days.

To the employee
[edit]

  • Travel time is reduced
  • Fuel consumption is reduced
  • Convenient
  • Reduced work-family conflict
  • When properly managed, increases job satisfaction and reduces stress
  • Increased mobility: more likely that one can move to another location without losing one's job
  • Reduced involvement in office politics that may affect job satisfaction or disrupt the work setting

Other[edit]

  • Reduces traffic, which results in: better driving conditions, fewer accidents, reduced congestion, reduced road maintenance costs, faster commutes, and more efficient fuel consumption.
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Preserves the environment by reducing the need for large offices and large highways.

Balancing between employee and employer[edit]

It is important for telecommuting that both the employer and employee agree upon what the employer will provide in terms of resources. For example, will the employer supply a computer, or will the employee? What amount of internet and phone bills will the employer pay? A list of common resources that need to be considered are listed below:

  • Computer and peripherals (fax machine, scanner, printer, etc.)
  • Internet connection and broadband allowance
  • Extra phone line(s)
  • Printing paper, ink, and other small office supplies (pens, rulers, etc.)
  • Office desks and chairs
  • Software licenses

Another important question is whether the company will handle the installation and removal of such equipment or not.

California Pilot Project[edit]

The state of California ran a pilot project to determine the impacts of home-based telecommuting on travel behaviour and personal vehicle emissions. The authors compared participants' travel behaviour before and after telecommuting, and found a 27% reduction in the number of personal vehicle trips, a 77% decrease in vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT), and 39% (4%) decreases in the number of cold (hot) engine starts. The authors determined that these decreases translated into emissions reductions of: 48% for total organic gases (TOG), 64% for carbon monoxide (CO), 69% for nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 78% for particulate matter (PM). [6]

The number of personal vehicle trips and VMT partitioned into commute-related and non-commute-related purposes revealed that non-commute personal vehicle trips increased by 0.5 trips per day on average, whereas the non-commute VMT decreased by 5.3 miles.[6] This finding supports the hypothesis that non-commute travel generation is a potential negative impact of telecommuting, though this small increase in non-commute trips has a negligible impact compared to the overall travel and emission savings.

Cas well & Associates[edit]

Cas well & Associates, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. , was a $650,000 firm that decided to give up its 1,700-square-foot office space, and instead gave each employee their own home office.

Cas well reported that the cost was $200 to $500 a head for modems and extra phone lines; each new employee also required a computer and a fax machine, at a per-employee total cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Since the transition, Cas well's phone bills doubled, but the company claims that all the total costs didn't come near to their previous rent of over $3,000 a month.[7]

Limitations/Concerns[edit]

Limitations and concerns of telecommuting can include:

  • Employees fear the isolation. From Kurland & Cooper, 2002: "Professionally, employees fear that when they're out of sight, they're out of mind for promotions and other organizational rewards. Socially, employees comment that they miss the informal interaction they garner by being around colleagues and friends"[8].
  • Research has shown that managers fear they lose control over employees' behavior as employees gain autonomy by telecommuting[9].
  • Safety concerns over the equipment or data provided to the out-of-office employee

Telework Associations[edit]

A number of associations have been established to help advance the growth and success of work independent of location through online resources.

Literature Review[edit]

A full literature review was conducted prior to creating our ECM. It can be found here: Telecommuting_Literature_Review

Energy Conservation Measures (ECM)[edit]

The following telecommuting ECM prepared for Mech425_GreenIT_Project can be used to determine the monetary costs and savings, as well as the greenhouse gas emission savings, derived from implementing a telework system. A copy of the ECM can be found here: File:Mech425 greenITProject Telecommuting ECM.xls.

The attached is most up to date. Please be mindful in the environmental section, total savings are assumed same every year and are summed cumulatively in the green cells that follow.

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 ["'Hoteling': Employees share desks as they check in to work". Central Penn Business Journal. FindArticles.com. 06 Feb, 2010. [[1]] Copyright Journal Publications Inc. Apr 17, 1998]
  2. <"A Look at Office Buildings: How do they use energy and how much does it cost?" (2001). [[2]] U.S. Energy Information Administration Independant Statistics and Analysis.
  3. [ Apgar, M. (1998). The alternative workplace: Changing where and how people work. Harvard Business Review, 76(3), 121-137.]
  4. [Polcastro, Mike. "Wages, benefits and tighter belts: agencies must not overlook the impact of pay and perks on their bottom line." Best's Review 110.8 (2009): 64. Academic OneFile. Web. 6 Feb. 2010.]
  5. [Shafizadeh (P.E.), Kevan R., et al. "Costs and Benefits of Home-Based Telecommuting: A Monte Carlo Simulation Model Incorporating Telecommuter, Employer and Public Sector Perspectives." Journal of Infrastructure Systems 13.1 (2007): 12-25. [[3]]]
  6. 6.0 6.1 [Koenig, Brett E., Dennis K. Henderson and Patricia L. Mokhtarian. "The Travel and Emissions Impacts of Telecommuting for the State of California Telecommuting Pilot Project." Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies 4.1 (1996): 13-32. Available on-line at: [[4]]]
  7. [Christopher Caggiano. "Five Ways to Save Money on Office Space" Mansueto Ventures LLC. July 1, 2000. [[5]]]
  8. [Nancy B. Kurland, Cecily D. Cooper, "Manager control and employee isolation in telecommuting environments", The Journal of High Technology Management Research, Volume 13, Issue 1, 2002, Pages 107-126.[[6]].
  9. [Tomaskovic-Devey, D. and Risman, B.J. "Telecommuting innovation and organization: a contingency theory of labor process change." Social Science Quarterly 74 2, 1993, Pages 367–385.]
Mech425.jpg This page was part of a project for Mech425, a Queen's University class on Engineering for Sustainable Development.

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