As defined in Webster's New World Dictionary, Third Edition, telecommuting is "an electronic mode of doing work outside the office that traditionally has been done in the office, as by computer terminal in the employee's home." Basically, 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 requires a large consumption of energy, not only in the operation of the highway construction and repair 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. The first two areas related to getting to work. Once a person arrives at a central office working location, he or she represents another energy consumer, often times magnified many times 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. Much time is spent on unnecessary activities by people who commute back and forth to work in the conventional manner. Time is wasted from the minute one gets up to go to work until the minute one returns home from work. 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 to the terminal. You would no longer have to worry if the car will start, if your clothes are neat, or if you're perfectly groomed. That may still be important to you, but it no longer has to be. And you are no longer interrupted by the idle chatter that inevitably takes place at the central work place - some of it useful for your work, but a lot of it is just a waste of time and a perpetual interruption. As quoted in Computerworld, one telecommuter comments "I was feeling really cramped in our old office. I find I can get much more done. It is much more quiet here at home."
In addition, telecommuting reduces family related stress by allowing involvement with family and flexibility in location of a remote worksite. 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 actually 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.
Also, telecommuting promotes safety by reducing high way use by people rushing to get to work. There are thousands of traffic-related deaths every year and thousands more people severely injured trying to get to work. In addition there is substantial property loss associated with traffic accidents that occur as people take chances in order to make the mad dash from home to the office. Often times people have mad the trip so often that they are not really alert, often falling asleep and frequently becoming frustrated by the insistence that they come into the office every day, when, in fact, most, if not all of their work could be accomplished from their home or sites much closer to their home.
Telecommuting, however 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", also, "employees are starting to see telecommuting policies as a benefit, and companies offering it will be more competitive." Another disadvantage is the psychological impact is 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.
Despite the disadvantages, though, telecommuting is a viable option to any future plan to preserve and protect our environment from encroachment and pollution caused by auto emissions and the consumption of land by enlarged highways and an increasing area for parking. A telecommuting program can be put in place by following a few tips from Mindy Blodgett in her article "Lower costs spur move to more telecommuting":
"Form a telecommuting team that includes technical experts, upper managers and human resources staff, and assign a telework coordinator."
"Contact other companies to learn from their experiences."
"Train participants and supervisors."
"Monitor the program through surveys before and after a pilot."
Measuring productivity in actual dollars is difficult. The actual productivity is best measured by the satisfaction and enjoyment by employees.
Bjerklie, David and Partick E. Cole. "Age of the road warrior." Time 145.12 (1995): 38- 40.
Blodgett, Mindy. "Lower costs spur move to more telecommuting." Computerworld 30.45 (1996) 8.
Blodgett, Mindy. "Telecommuting pilot test proves space-saving plan." Computerworld 30.46
Webster's New World Dictionary of American English, Third College Edition. Victoria Neureldt, Ed. 1988 New York 1375.
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