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Telecommute for a Greener Office

Want to find a way to reduce your carbon footprint and increase your productivity at work? Try telecommuting just one day a week.

For a lot of people dealing with a longer commute due to road closures in the September 11th flood aftermath, telecommuting to school or work has become a necessity. But while some people feel a bit guilty about this turn of events and feel that their coworkers may be looking down on their absence from the physical office, others are recognizing the benefits of working from home to both the employer and the employee .

First, let’s take a look at the reduced carbon imprint. The average commute to work in the US is 12 miles each direction. For a fairly efficient car, this translates to approximately 25 pounds of emitted CO2 for the round trip, while a less efficient vehicle emits up to 50 pounds. If you reduce your commute by one day each year, you could eliminate 1300-2600 pounds of CO2 per year. That’s enough to power 1-2 households for an entire year. If everybody in the nation did that, the savings would be enormous.

The second benefit to companies that allow their employees to sometimes work from home sense is a measured increase in productivity. There are several reasons for this.

• Fewer interruptions as coworkers stop by to “check in”.

• People work at the times of day when they are actually most effective. Morning person? Night person? You work at your optimal time.

• A decrease in the stress of dealing with commuting actually decreases illnesses. This translates to fewer days out due to sick time.

• A reduction in overhead for the company. Whether it’s electricity or shared desk space, allowing workers to stagger their days in the office can make a difference in the overall budget.

• Increased employee retention. High employee turnover not only costs a company money, but it is a huge drain on everyone’s time. Studies show that companies that allow telecommuting retain happier, more productive employees for longer.

A third benefit to telecommuting that few people think about is the fact that telecommuters are less likely to use paper and other recyclable materials. Since they are working from home, these workers are more likely to scan documents instead of using the copier, send more digital communications via email, and use digital document storage. Also, since they are at home, that’s one less day to use recyclable materials for food and beverages at the cafe or in the company kitchen. Overall, it adds up big.

For a lot of companies, the biggest hurdle to starting a telecommuting program for its employees is first convincing the employer that it will benefit them. Luckily, there are quite a few studies and resources available online to back up your case–and a lot of companies have already caught on! Study the facts and take a moment to have a serious discussion with your manager about the mutual benefits. You might even suggest that the company tally up the annual savings through telecommuting and post it on the web site to broadcast the company’s efforts.

The flood has thrown a kink in a lot of Coloradans’ schedules. Why not use the opportunity to show your company how the situation can actually benefit everyone involved? Telecommuting to work where in situations where it makes sense is a win-win situation for employers, employees, and our environment as a whole.


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