Smart Energy Living - June 2011


Home is Where the Office is for Teleworkers:
Which fantasy works best for you?

By: Donna Dailey

Which fantasy works best for you? The Caribbean, Hawaii . . . or perhaps Alaska in the summer?  All this probably sounds pretty good when the snow is piling high outside in the winter or the pavement looks like it’s melting in July. And when you pull up to the pump and see prices heading towards $4 a gallon, even your home office might be the subject of your fantasy.

These locations are the workplaces of the future, and the future is closer than you think. Year by year, the numbers of teleworkers are growing, taking advantage of new technology, e-mail, instant messaging and the Internet to connect to the office from their homes.

Teleworkers are happy,  liberated from the need to commute physically each day in to their offices. Employers are happy, knowing that business continuity will not be an issue during a blizzard, pandemic or other emergency.  Stress levels are down, morale is up, and best of all, the bottom line for businesses shows that teleworkers get a lot done.   The International Telework Association and Council reports productivity increases of 20 percent.

Sperling’s Best Places (http://www.bestplaces.net/docs/studies/telework06.aspx) recent named Denver /Aurora the third best large metro area for  teleworking based on factors such as typical commuting times, fuel prices, availability of broadband Internet access and percentage of telework friendly jobs. Boulder and Colorado Springs were ranked one and two among small metro areas.

Telework programs throughout the area design policies that fit unique  corporate cultures - defining issues such as hours, communication, technology, work product, security, and even daycare. These programs not only ensure business continuity, but also help attract a higher-caliber employee, retain a talented workforce, reduce absenteeism, decrease demand for office space, mitigate traffic congestion, and most of all – increase productivity.

Telework is today’s solution for tomorrow’s workplace challenges.

So where do you begin? Is it expensive? How do you manage teleworkers? The following questions and answers address some basic issues.

About the photo: Boulder's NZE House, designed by Architropic: A net-zero energy house and winner of the 2011 CRES Renewable Energy in Buildings Award, residential category. Photo by Allison Fleetwood.

Q: What type of equipment is needed for teleworking? Is implementation expensive?
A: Teleworking can be done with as little technology as a phone, a piece of paper and a pen, or may involve computer hardware, software and other technologies. The amount and type of equipment for successful teleworking will depend on the nature of the job and the frequency of teleworking. In most cases, teleworkers use their own home computers and are happy to do so.

Implementation can be accomplished with as little expense as simply the staff time needed to write a good set of policies.

Q: What types of jobs are appropriate for teleworking?
A: Most "information-based" jobs are appropriate for teleworking. Teleworking is ideal for jobs that require reading, writing, research, working with data, and talking on the phone. Many jobs that may not seem appropriate at first may be modified so that the employee can telework, at least on a part- time basis. One of the secrets of designing a good teleworking program lies in the ability to organize specific jobs so that they can be done without constant interaction or need for feedback.

Q: Which employees are ideal for teleworking?
A: The ideal teleworker is well organized, can work independently, and requires minimal supervision. Successful teleworkers have a high degree of job skill and knowledge, and strong time management skills. Teleworkers like working at home or away from the office for at least part of the week, and don’t mind working alone. Teleworking is not ideal or desirable for every employee.

Q: How do I know if the teleworkers are really working?
A: The employee’s completed work product is the indicator. Telemanagers must focus on quantity, quality and timeliness. They must manage by objectives or results, rather than by direct observation.

Q: How will managers learn to supervise teleworkers?
A: Teleworking presents an opportunity for telemanagers to become better supervisors. By focusing on the employee’s work product, telemanagers will increase their own organizational skills and their own skill in managing by objectives.

Q: Will employees work less if they are at home working unsupervised?
A: No, survey results showed marked improvements in productivity. Productivity increases because employees have fewer distractions and interruptions, work at their peak times and experience less stress due to the absence of the commute to work.

Q: Will loyalty to the company be diminished?
A: No, loyalty is likely to improve, as employees are happier with their working conditions. Employee morale also improves as a result of teleworking.

Q: What happens if the employee is injured at home while working?
A: If the employee is hurt while working, he or she is covered by workers compensation, just as at the regular place of business. OSHA guidelines do not demand home inspections – employees must simply be advised on how to set up an ergonomic home office/work space.

Still a bit overwhelmed by the idea of implementing a telework program?

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are many resources, guidelines and policy/agreement templates out there to get you well on your way. A telework program is well worth considering, not only for the benefits to the bottom line, but also for the tremendous potential for reduction in air pollution, traffic congestion and energy waste.
 
According to Telework Exchange, an individual commuter driving 15 miles round trip to work would save 652.5 pounds of pollutants by teleworking just one day per week. Research shows that 40% of the U.S. workforce has jobs that are conducive to telecommuting.

If all of these employees telecommuted, approximately 625 million barrels of oil could be saved annually (roughly the equivalent to 80% of our Gulf oil imports), greenhouse gases could be reduced by 107 million metric tons of CO2 each year, and $43 billion could be saved at the pump (at $3.50/gallon).

As Sen. Robert Dole once said, “The most effective way to cope with change is to help create it!”

These links can help you get started:

http://www.teleworkexchange.com
http://www.telework.gov
http://www.teleworkva.org

Donna Dailey is currently an Independent Telework Consultant and Coordinator. She draws on her seven years of experience as the Telework Coordinator for the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), assisting Denver Metro area companies implement and enhance Telework programs for their employees. Her expertise includes presentations to management, one-on-one consultations, review and development of policies and forms, training, IT assistance, survey evaluation and event coordination. During her employment with DRCOG, Donna organized and hosted over 20 educational forums focusing on specific telework topics crucial to successful telework programs. She developed an I.T. Consultation program, which won the Creative Excellence Award from the Association for Commuter Transportation in 2008.Contact her at Dailey4Telework@aol.com

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