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7 Reasons Employers Should Embrace Telework

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‘Home. The Final Frontier In Employment’.

Okay. I could not resist a nerdy reference (Star Trek’s ‘The Final Frontier’). – Now that I got it out of my system…

Most of us fight traffic, daily. Whether by car, on a congested highway. Or, by crowded bus. Antiquated train… Even by bicycling.

We might have a blood pressure ‘rush’ when angling for a plum parking spot, only to have another worker-bee swoop in it, before us. Or, when running to catch the bus/train, only to miss it by ‘that much’. Or, sleeping past our stop, not having heard the conductor’s melodious voice.

Then, we wait for the elevator. Get to our cubicle, or if we are fortunate enough to have one, our office. We suddenly remember that we forgot our morning coffee. And, that would mean waiting for another elevator and losing more time from our already over-booked workday.

We cringe when we have to pay the gas/transportation costs and lunches, if we don’t brown bag it…

We wonder, ‘Is there a better way to work?’. Then, suddenly it hits us: Telecommute!

Okay, enough of an intro. But, I wanted you in the mood.

Imagine a day where you can sleep a bit later due to no commuting. A day where you will get dressed but probably in a less formal style. A day when you can reach the bathroom in feet rather than down an endless hallway. Where no one is apt to complain if you listen to music while you work.

There are very many pluses for us, the employee, when considering telework.

But, how about our employer? Well, let’s see…

#1 Savings on office space. – In FY 2012: The Department of Commerce saved approximately $14 million in leased property costs. And, the Department of Energy closed a Nevada office. — Staff in various agencies could share physical space, for when their staff needed to be physically at the office.

#2 Transportation savings. – Telecommuting can result in less $ having to be given employees for gas expenses.

#3 Potential for higher levels of productivity. – Staff would have less stress than they do from the morning ‘crazies’ described earlier. They can be around more comfortable surroundings. Less immediate/physical interactions can result in less wasted time spent in idle water-cooler chit-chat. Less of an opportunity for worker conflict. Staff can remain at home with a sick family member and still do some/all of their day’s workload. Sick employees can work from home without passing their illness to other workers.

#4 Energy savings. – Lower electric bills. (In FY 2013, the Patent and Trademark Office saved an estimated $2.5 million. ) Global Workplace Analytics estimates that the nation could save over 640 million barrels of oil, yearly. (Based on half of the workforce that have tele-work compatible jobs and who worked at home only half of the time.)

#5 Less pollution. – Based upon Global Workplace Analytics numbers of workers from #4 who telecommuted, there could be approximately 54 million tons less of greenhouse gases.

#6 Miscellaneous savings. – Less money spent on ADA compliant buildings and parking spaces. Less money spent on paper goods for kitchen/break areas. Less paper used in the bathrooms. Less on cleaning chemicals. (Helping the offices’ air quality improve.) Less furniture wear and tear.

#7 Then there are city, state, and federal ‘general savings’. – Less wear and tear on the roads. Less stress on bus and train seats. Less accidents on the road due to less traffic would also free-up police and other safety workers.

“You sound like a cheerleader for telecommuting. But are there not pitfalls to it? I heard horror stories about workers who abused the privilege.”

Okay. Of course there will be some abuse by some workers. But currently, you have some employees who take longer breaks, chat with others for long periods of time, and call in sick when they are fine and simply want to play hooky. There are going to be some folks who will not be able to discipline themselves, at home. They might surf the web instead of working? Well, that already happens at work. Doesn’t it depend upon the individual?

Logic and facts and a sense of ‘courage’ needs to be applied before beginning to allow for telecommuting.

Not all positions are suited for it. Some will still require a percentage of ‘in-office’ presence. There will be some costs, perhaps for equipment at the employee’s residence. There will have to be expectations for productivity and quality of the work. And, not every potentially eligible worker is suited for telecommuting.

This effort might also require a change in how workloads are viewed. Is the successful completion of a task more important than the number of hours spent in doing it? How are employees to be evaluated?

Bottom-line, telework has great potential for the employee, their supervisor, the agency, and the taxpayer. So, give it some serious thought! Broach it to ‘the powers that be’.

‘Dare to go where no one has gone before (at your workplace).’

Sorry. I couldn’t resist one additional Star Trek reference.

‘Nuff said.

Russell A. Irving is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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8 Comments

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Profile Photo Lori Sassoon

I agree, it’s worth trying. Some jobs could even be done better at home – like working on complex technology problems that require quiet and uninterrupted concentration. It’s a hard sell to the public, though, in some cases. Great post Russell!

Profile Photo Terrence Hill

Great blog post! At one time I compiled a list of over 100 reasons why employees should telework. It seems that every day there is a new reason. For instance the weather conditions today, the Metro calamity this week, etc.

A couple big obstacles still in the way are that leaders are not setting the example by teleworking themselves and even though the technology exists, we have a lot of luddites that refuse to use virtual collaboration tools.

Russell Irving

Terry, you make some great points. And while I would probably struggle to list 100 reasons for allowing telework, I could have listed more. You make valid points. Thanks.

Profile Photo Matthew Garlipp

Great post, Russell! I think it was an especially good point to note that some of the potential telework pitfalls, such as individuals surfing the web, already occur in many offices — there are going to be pros and cons in any working environment.

Profile Photo Amber V Hammond

Great post, Russell! Love seeing the both sides of the issue presented. I am a big proponent of telework. As an introvert, I thrive on being able to dig into my work in my own space with my Pandora cranked up and no “watercooler” distractions (I’ve enjoyed working exclusively remotely for 2.5 years and wouldn’t change it for anything), but not everyone is built for that. I have colleagues who thrive in a collaborative environment, and they perform much better in an office setting. I make sure to stay connected to them by phone or IM, which helps keep me from feeling isolated from the team and helps them feel connected as a group. So, keeping a balance across staff and working with their strengths and weaknesses is important.

Russell.Irving

Thank you, Amber, for your comments. Nice to hear of someone who is making telework, succeed. While my state gov’t. does not allow telework, I had spent years working from a building seprate from the rest of my unit. So it was partway along the telework spectrum. I do wish that more agencies would take the chance on putting telework programs in action.