Telecommuting emerged in the 1970’s with developing technology allowing for employees to work from remote locations, such as their homes. Working from home can have many benefits for the community, the employer and the employee. The main issue, and the reason why many companies don’t allow it, is the lack of trust between management and subordinates. For telecommuting programs to function successfully, performance must be based on results and not on supervision.
It is estimated that about 40% of the US working population (more than 50 million people) could potentially telecommute. Currently, only about 2.3% of the US works from home. A recent article from the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that San Diego is the top city for telecommuting, with 4.2% working from home. The other cities in the Top Five include Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle and Phoenix. Cities at the bottom of the list were Detroit and Houston.
The United States is lagging behind other countries in their telecommuting population. Canada has 3.2% working from home, and the United Kingdom is at 5.6%. In order for telecommuting to work on a grand scale in the US, new management styles must be adopted to measure employee results and not clock hours spent sitting at a desk.
With our increasingly advanced technology these days, telecommuting should become more popular. It’s much easier to monitor employee performance with devices such as webcams and online services like instant messaging. If supervisors cared to do so, they could potentially monitor their work-at-home employees every second of the day.
With our national desire to be greener in all aspects of society, telecommuting should be viewed as a viable option for cleaning up the environment. Allowing employees to work from home greatly reduces greenhouse gases by keeping more cars of the road. Telecommuting also reduces energy costs such as electricity in the workplace, decreases the chance of spreading illness and boosts company morale.
For the individual employee, working from home reduces their carbon footprint and fuel usage by working from home in addition to saving money on travel expenses and daycare in some cases. Allowing employees to work from home also greatly increases the pool of potential employees. Telecommuting enables caregivers, the disabled, retirees, those living in remote areas and other parts of the population that cannot otherwise travel to work on a day-to-day basis to become important contributions to the workforce.
If the 50 million Americans that can work from home are actually allowed to do so the environmental benefits would be monumental. If supervision is an issue, then management teams must come up with technologically-advanced methods to keep an eye on their workers. Increasing the telecommuting population is a step in the right direction in saving our environment, and it might be just what we need to make the world a better place; for the community, for the company and for the individual employee.