Make Telecommuting a New Company Culture
Telecommuting isn’t often thought of as a green concept, but some estimates say employee travel to and from the office accounts for roughly one-fourth of carbon emissions from office operations.
The good news: Statistics compiled by the Telework Coalition show that more than 44 million Americans are avoiding commuting by doing at least some work outside the office.
Organizations with remote employees report:
- Increased productivity
- More competitive recruiting
- Lower real-estate costs
- Higher morale
- Better retention rates
- Less stress on the environment
But few have yet to embrace telecommuting as fully as Sun Microsystems and IBM, which pioneered the practice a decade ago and have since adopted virtual work policies into their corporate cultures.
Sun Microsystems began its “open work” program in 1995, allowing new hires to decide where they’d like to work when they negotiate their offer letter.
The company, which provides open-source network solutions and services, now employs 20,000 people —55% of its workforce—who either are based primarily at home or divide their time between a Sun office and a home office.
In 2006, Sun saved close to $68 million in real estate and related operating costs and increased worker productivity by 34%. Sun also reduced its corporate CO2 emissions by 29,000 tons, because more than half of its employees don’t commute daily or put demands on office heating and cooling systems.
Of course, technology helps companies make telecommuting possible. Sun asks remote employees to report to work through a virtual private network and a virtual desktop using a secure Java-enabled card ID. Files are stored on a central server rather than individual PCs. Sun established a consulting practice to help other businesses set up similar virtual workspace programs.
IBM, which started its program in the mid-1990s, now employs 121,000 people—40% of its global workforce—who do not maintain an office within the company.
As a result, the multinational computer company and consultancy saves an estimated $100 million a year in on-site costs alone. Without a location barrier, IBM has expanded its recruiting opportunities. Its workers also get more done.
“We don’t manage by whether you’re sitting at your desk, we manage by whether you’ve produced the deliverables,” Jacci Moss, IBM human resources director for Lotus software said in an analyst’s report for Veritude. Moss added that employees spend time working instead of commuting, and they work hard so this benefit will continue.
According to Fortune magazine, 79 of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2006 allowed employees to work from home at least one day a week.
Republic Bancorp, HomeBanc Mortgage, American Fidelity Assurance, Morrison & Foerster and S.C. Johnson had the highest percentages of remote workers, ranging from 23–60%.