Telecommuting is an electronic mode of doing work outside the office that traditionally has been done in the office. This is done with a computer terminal in the employee’s home. It is working at home utilizing current technology, such as computers, modems, and fax machines. Traditionally, people have commuted by cars, buses, trains, and subways, to work and back. Through the innovation of telecommuting, the actual necessity to change location in order to accomplish this task has been challenged on the basis of concerns for energy conservation, loss of productivity, and other issues.
One advantage of telecommuting is energy conservation. A tremendous amount of energy is required to produce transportation equipment such as automobiles, buses trains, and subways. If telecommuting is promoted, there will be less use of this equipment and less energy will be required for production, maintenance, and repair of this equipment. Fuel resources needed to operate this equipment will be reduced. The building and repair of highways and maintenance require a large consumption of energy, not only in the operation of equipment, but also in the manufacture and transportation of the required materials. An increase in the percentage of people telecommuting to work will decrease the need for expanded highways and associated road maintenance. Once a person arrives at a central office working location, he or she represents another energy consumer, often times magnified over what would be required at home. The office building has heating, cooling, and lighting needs, and the materials to build it and maintain it require energy in their production and transportation. Working from home requires only modest incremental demands on energy for heating, cooling, and lighting needs, and makes effective use of existing building space and facilities.
Telecommuting also improves productivity. With telecommuting, one no longer needs to be always preparing for the commute and for being “presentable”. One can go to work simply by tossing on a robe and slippers, grabbing a cup of coffee and sitting down at the terminal. Employees are no longer interrupted by the idle chatter that inevitably takes place at the central work place – some of it useful for work, but a lot of it is a waste of time and a perpetual interruption.
Additionally, telecommuting reduces family related stress by allowing involvement with family and flexibility in location work site. Working in the home offers people a greater opportunity to share quality time with family members, to promote family values and develop stronger family ties and unity. Also, time saved through telecommuting could be spent with family members constructively in ways that promote and foster resolution of family problems. Since the actual location a telecommuter works from isn’t relevant, the person could move to another town. This would alleviate the stress caused when a spouse has an opportunity to pursue his or her career in another town and must choose between a new opportunity or no opportunity, because their spouse does not want to or cannot change employment. If either person could telecommute, the decision would be much easier.
Telecommuting does have its disadvantages. The most obvious disadvantage is the overwhelming cost of starting a telecommuting program. A study by Forrester Research, Inc. reveals that it costs $30,000 to $45,000 a head to train prospective telecommuters. After the first year, however, per-user spending is cut to about $4,000. Employees are starting to see telecommuting policies as a benefit, and companies offering it will be more competitive. Another disadvantage is the psychological impact it may have on employees. Executives who have labored for years to win such corporate status symbols as secretaries and luxurious corner offices are reluctant to shed their hard-won perks. Some employees also complain that their creativity has been dampened by lack of interaction with their co-workers.
A telecommuting program can be put in place by following a few tips from “Lower costs spur move to more telecommuting,” an article by Mindy Blodgett: 1) Form a telecommuting team that includes technical experts, upper managers and human resources staff, and assign a telework coordinator. 2) Contact other companies to learn from their experiences. 3) Train participants and supervisors. 4) Monitor the program through surveys before and after a pilot.