I am quite lucky that I work for a company that has the facilities to enable me to telecommute. What what is telecommuting, and what is it all about?
Well, for me, telecommuting is making your home an extension of your employers office. Here is how it works. The company I work for provides me with a laptop, mouse and keyboard and all the bits that go with it. I provide the broadband internet connection, and they provide a secure method of connecting to the company network that is simple and reliable. The technical term is a secure Virtual Private Network tunnel or VPN, which is basically a way of encrypting company data over a public network (the internet). Now this wonderful technology allows me to logon to my company’s data network, use email, access files, browse the company intranet, and do anything I would normally be able to do in the office which is located 50km away from my home. I claim back as a tax deduction part of my broadband bill, telephone line rental, a portion of my electricity expenses, and some stationary costs. Some employers will even reimburse you these expenses on a monthly basis.
Telecommuting takes a bit of getting used to, mainly because of the pleasant distractions of the home environment. You do have to structure your day to get the most out of it, just like in the office. Meetings can be held via teleconference (meetings via the phone), and short conversations or corridor chat can be held via a corporate version of Messenger. It is a great tool to keep up on the office gossip! You can even work in your pyjamas all day if you really want to, and no-one will ever know, and gives a whole new meaning to casual Fridays!
So that is how it works for me, but what are the environmental benefits? Well, for two days a week, I don’t have to take a 100km round trip to Melbourne and back, and get stuck in traffic for 3 hours a day. That is a savings of about 10.8 litres of fuel a week in my hybrid. If you had vehicle with higher consumption you would save a lot more of course. WikiAnswers states that “Burning one litre of Petrol releases 2.36 kg of CO2 (under the ‘perfect’ fuel/air mixture). I know this sounds unreasonable when one litre of petrol weighs around 0.75 kg, but the majority (over 70%) of the CO2 weight is made up of the oxygen which is consumed from the air and does not originate from the petrol.” So by telecommuting, I save 1.2 tonnes of CO2 a year. That is a big chunk out of my carbon footprint, and I get to spend 3 hours a day more with my family. A win-win situation for me and the planet. And I get to keep $751 a year that I would have otherwise spent on fuel!
Other environmental benefits are a reduction in energy costs for the employer. When I am not at work, they do not have to power up my docking station for my laptop which uses about 95 Wh. I make sure it is powered off when I leave the office. Compare this to about 25 Wh when using my laptop at home, and considering that I produce most of my own power and any power I draw from the gird on a cloudy day is GreenPower, my carbon footprint is zero for using my laptop at home. Another big saving on my carbon footprint. Based on an 8 hour day, that is a saving of 560 Wh, and a yearly saving of 53.76 kWh and 64 kg of CO2.
Then there is air-conditioning that is not required to cool down my body and equipment down at work. I certainly don’t have air-con running 24/7 at home. I must admit, by me working from home, it would only have a small impact at work.
Here is an example of some real statistic from Sun Microsystems, a computer and software company. They offer about 56% or 19,000 of their global workforce an option to telecommute an average of 2.5 days per week. They performed a study on telecommuting and asked the question “Does telecommuting really save energy, or just transfer energy cost and load to employees?”
They found that:
- Employees saved more than $1,700 per year in gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles by working at home an average of 2.5 days a week.
- Office equipment energy consumption rate at a Sun office was two times that of home office equipment energy consumption, from approximately 64 watts per hour at home to 130 watts per hour at a Sun office.
- Commuting was more than 98 percent of each employee’s carbon footprint for work, compared to less than 1.7 percent of total carbon emissions to power office equipment.
- By eliminating commuting just 2.5 days per week, an employee reduces energy used for work by the equivalent of 5,400 Kilowatt hours/year.
- Working from home 2.5 days per week saved the employees in the study an average of 2.5 weeks of commute time (8 hours/day, 5 days/week).
So, if your employer allows telecommuting, try and convince your boss to let you work from home once in a while. The benefits flow both ways, and they will end up with better retention rates, and happier staff. For those employers who have not considered telecommuting yet, here are a few ways on how to convince your boss. Have a read of this article “How to Convince Your Boss You Can (and Should) Work From Home.” It is from a series of articles by Planet Green. It is give you the means to present your case to your boss in favour of telecommuting. I also found the survey statistics from the same site.
Give it a go, you have nothing to loose and everything to gain and the environment will love you for it! Both you and your employer will save money and resources. So if you don’t ask, you won’t get.