Blog More Telework Means Major Savings, Increased Productivity

Using a robustly-researched, fine-tuned “telework savings calculator” developed by the Telework Research Network, Seattle Times workplace blogger Michelle Goodman highlighted what this region’s employers and workers could save in various costs and gain in improved productivity if the 40 percent of regular, salaried non-government office workers who could work from home, but don’t, did — just half the time.
The upshot: There are billions of dollars in potential benefits from telework being left on the table in the Seattle region alone.
Kate Lister (pictured at right), co-author of “Undress For Success – The Naked Truth About Making Money At Home” and principal researcher of Telework Research Network, shared with me today her latest data about the robust national impact of 40 percent of the regular, full-time, non-government, in-office workforce working at home half the time. Maybe your company would like a piece of this action.

The projected results:

  • The nation would save 453 million barrels of oil (57% of Gulf oil imports) – a national savings of $31 billion per year (at $70/barrel).
  • The environment would be saved from 84 million tons or greenhouse gases a year – the equivalent of taking 15 million cars off the road.
  • The energy potential from the gas savings alone would total more than twice what the U.S. currently produces from all renewable energy source combined.
  • National productivity would increase by 6.2 million man-years/year ($200 billion worth of work).
  • Businesses would save $194 billion annually in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and turnover.
  • Employees would individually save between $2,500 and $11,000 in transportation and work-related costs. In addition, many would also be able to cut daycare and eldercare costs. Note: these numbers are net of the additional home expenses an employee incurs.
  • Employees would gain back an extra 2.5 weeks worth of time per year – time they’d have otherwise spent commuting.
  • Communities would save over $3 billion in highway maintenance because 180 billion fewer miles would be driven each year.
  • 150,000 people/year would be saved from traffic-related injury or death.
  • $18 billion a year would be saved in accident-related costs.
  • Concludes Lister:

    “All that adds up to an annual economic benefit of over $700 billion a year. Telework offers a relatively simple, inexpensive solution to some of the world’s most vexing problems. Environmentalists applaud telework because it significantly reduces greenhouse gases and energy usage. Managers support telework because of the cost savings and increased productivity. Work-life experts endorse telework because it addresses the needs of families, parents, and senior caregivers.
    Workforce planners see telework as away to avoid the ‘brain drain’ effect of retiring boomers. Human resource professionals see telework as a way to recruit and retain the best people. Employees see telework as a way to save time and money, and improve the quality of their lives. Baby Boomers find telework offers a flexible alternative to full retirement. Gen Y’ers see telework as a way to work on their own terms. Disabled workers, rural residents, and military families find home-based work to offer an answer to their special needs. Urban planners realize telecommuting can reduce traffic and revitalize cities. Governments see telework as a way to reduce highway wear and tear and alleviate the strain on our crumbling transportation infrastructure.”

    Lister’s not out on a limb here. Today Justin Draeger, the vice-president of public policy and advocacy for the National Association Of Student Aid Financial Administrators, wrote in an Inside Higher Ed guest opinion piece titled, “Decentralized Work: The Final Frontier:”

    Smart colleges and universities and other organizations that want to boost productivity, retain talented employees, and reduce costs should be taking a hard look at a comprehensive teleworking policy that can be implemented strategically and appropriately on a job-by-job or department-by-department basis…The higher education community isn’t the only industry that is behind the curve…In 2007, then-General Services Administration Chief Lurita Doan lamented the fact that only 4.2 percent of the eligible federal work force teleworked one or more days each week. “Some worry that telework will result in reduced quality and quantity of work,” Doan said. “Research and my own experience have consistently shown the opposite. Teleworkers perform at least equal or better than office-bound workers.”

    What of future growth in telecommuting? Writing for the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, Liz Garone predicts, “moving workers into telecommuting positions…is expected to become more and more common with today’s relentless focus on the bottom line.”
    Bring on that calculator.
    Slow But Steady Telework Revolution Eyed,” Cascadia Prospectus, 9/26/07
    The Road Ahead – Zero Miles, Shared Miles, Efficient Miles,” Microsoft Chief Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard, speaking at Cascadia Center’s 5th Annual TransTech Conference, “Beyond Oil; Transforming Transportation,” Redmond, Wash., 9/5/08 (scroll to paragraphs 7-10 of full transcript at page bottom)
    Can Telecommuting Take Root In Kitsap,” Kitsap Sun, 9/14/08
    Telework Cuts Congestion, Boosts Productivity,” KOMO-AM 1000, Seattle, 9/16/08