Carbon Footprint Series Part 3: Telecommuting

People have begun to see the impact telecommuting can make on our overall carbon footprint and are realizing that working from home can help the planet. Because telecommuting reduces carbon fuel consumption, air pollution and traffic congestion by decreasing the number of cars on the road, environmentalists strongly recommend this simple, effective solution.

According to a survey commissioned by the US Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), telecommuting—though it marginally increases home-based carbon emissions—significantly reduces overall energy consumption. The additional power required for home offices and associated electronic devices is slight when compared with the energy consumption associated with commercial office space. The report projects that by avoiding an average 22-mile commute—even taking the increased power use for home offices into consideration—telecommuting saves approximately 840 million gallons of gasoline. This is the equivalent to taking two million cars off the road for a year.

Portable consumer electronics—primarily laptop computers, wireless and smart phones—are a vital part of the telecommuting equation. And when consumer electronics are paired with web and video conferencing solutions and an inexpensive webcam, your home office can retain much of the same feel and productivity as an in-office environment. Additionally, video conferencing—which allows employees at any location to engage others on a personal level—can significantly improve carbon emissions than driving or flying to business meetings.

Even if you aren’t ready for the camera just yet, the essentials you will need as a telecommuter include:

  • Employer permission
  • Designated office space in your home
  • Computer and associated office software (compatible with your office tools)
  • Internet access (webmail and VPN access are terrific to have, too)
  • Smart phone or PDA (i.e., iPhone, Blackberry, etc.)
  • Conferencing software
  • Storage device/media

Citing recruitment and employee satisfaction benefits, companies are changing their perspectives and policies regarding telecommuting employees; many have adopted the arrangement at least part-time. In fact, 37% of the employees in the CEA survey state that they were willing to take a slight pay cut (of up to 10%) if allowed this option. And if you live in a city that already makes allowances for telecommuting lifestyles, you’re a step ahead. When companies recognize the environmental gains as well as employee benefits, this solution is as effective as it is simple.

While the CEA survey was conducted in 2004, numerous articles continue to reflect ongoing discussions around the topic and already, the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act provides for new options within the government sector. We hope this momentum grows as individuals search for new ways to reinvent their work lives and we will continue to develop this dialog at PGi as one of most favorite topics.

Tell us: do you telecommute? If so, do you incorporate this practice into your schedule regularly or only occasionally? And what tips would you offer a beginning telecommuter?


About Lea G.

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