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
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
(1996) 81-82. Webster's New World Dictionary of American English, Third
College Edition. Victoria Neureldt, Ed. 1988 New York 1375.