Earth Day: How Can Telecommuting Help?

Earth Day: How Can Telecommuting Help?

On the eve of the 41st Earth Day, I’m going to invoke the big ‘T’: telecommuting. The benefits of telecommuting have never been more important to the health of the Earth. Each year, more cars hit the roads in long commutes, increasing energy consumption and putting out more and more pollution.

For decades, leaders in the telecommunications industry have pushed for greener solutions, encouraging and empowering business owners to create telework programs with technologies like virtual phone systems and the hosted VoIP PBX.

These technologies increase remote productivity and allow efficient management of remote employees. But even so, the adoption of telework programs is not progressing as rapidly as it should be. Perhaps part of the problem is a failure to realize the full environmental benefit of a nation working from home.

Our good friends at the Telework Research Network released some startling statistics about the impact of telecommuting yesterday, citing, “If every person in the U.S. with a telecommuting-compatible job worked at home on Earth Day, collectively it would:

– Save 900 million vehicle miles
– Save 45 million gallons of gas, $188 million in consumer savings
– Save 2.3 million barrels of oil, valued at $185 million
– Eliminate 423,000 tons of greenhouse gasses, equivalent to taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year
– Save 28 million kWh in net electricity, enough to power 2,600 homes for a year
– Save 775 people from traffic injury and deaths

And that’s just one day! Multiply those figures across an entire year, and you have an amazing potential to reduce commuter consumption and pollution and preserve the planet. The Telework Research Network also states that only 2% of the U.S. workforce telecommutes a majority of the time, though 40% could. So it’s time to start asking: what’s the hold up? Why are people that can telecommute not doing so?

I don’t think it’s because people like rushing out the door, thoroughly enjoy being stuck in traffic, and can’t live without their morning talk radio shows on the drive to work. I believe it’s a matter of culture – we’ve always left home to go to work, so it’s stamped on our brains and in our society that this is how it should be. On top of that, there’s a great deal of management anxiety and technophobia. An employee working out of their home has to be able to be held to the same standard as one in the office, and it is a tough sell to get some business owners to understand that there are tools out there to make that happen.

The decision comes down to business owners and managers. They have to be willing and able to responsibly create a telework program with technologies that allow for efficient management from remote. But getting to that stage is going to take a stronger movement from the office worker. If you could be telecommuting more, why not bring that up with your boss? Explain the benefits, how it can help the company, how you’ll be just as productive, if not moreso, from the comfort of your own home. They may say no, but at least you’ve planted the seed and can nurture it from there.

Let’s make the next decade about finding the answers that will get more people out of the office, of the roads, and working from home to help save the planet. Personal efforts toward conservation start by examining what you do every day, and if you can cross a long commute off your list, you’ll be doing the Earth a great big favor.

Happy Earth Day 2016!

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