Is Telecommuting an EHS Issue?

Celia Spence

Celia Spence

An important new study, “Workshifting Benefits:  The Bottom Line”, by the Telework Research Network concludes what we have known for some time: Allowing employees to work from home benefits employers, employees and the environment.

Those of us responsible for leading programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our companies should include telecommuting  as an element of our programs because:

  • About $360 per year can be saved in gasoline expenses per employee telecommuting half of their time
  • If businesses allow 100 employees to work half of their time from home, 129 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced just from getting those cars off the road.

Many of us work in companies that have not gotten on board with the concept of allowing employees to work from home, whether it’s because employers don’t believe employees have the discipline to work if they are not being observed by a supervisor, or they simply haven’t been convinced of the benefits. This study, however, provides a tool for those who want to make the case for telecommuting as a GHG reduction measure.

What is the policy in your company?  Do you think this is an issue that the EHS or Sustainability Manager should champion or does it belong in HR or elsewhere?

About Celia Spence

Celia Spence is Director of Sustainability for Westinghouse Electric Co.

View all post by Celia Spence »

  1. Elizabeth Kujan

    July 8, 2010

    Yes and No.
    No for traditional EH&S since the job description stops at the fence line; there’s little for them to leverage as a champion.
    Yes for a Sustainability Manager since scope 3 emissions are within their job description. Measuring the savings is key for them and getting that done with any precision requires the $ of Microsoft.

    Might just be easier to partner with HR and try to sell the idea on the basis of employee satisfaction and worker productivity. Chances are many of the folks that will be telecommuting through a VPN are the same ones who have late night China calls and early morning European calls. They were taking those calls from home and now they can respond to the action items in real time, not wait until their back in the office.

    For job funtions that require being on-site, there’s always carpooling and vans from public transport.

  2. Jordan Geer

    July 8, 2010

    In terms of potential, most current methods of making the daily commute a bit greener are not very strong. Carpooling has almost no potential as not everyone wants to try to fit their morning schedule into another person’s, much less 3 or 4 other people’s. Public transportation has a little more potential than carpooling, but not everyone commutes from a place that is near public transportation. The potential of telecommuting is that EVERYONE can participate. It can also get people off the roads completely, which saves a lot more than just money or energy. It saves lives!

  3. Dick Pastor

    July 9, 2010

    While I support telecommuting and do it myself occasionally, I still am a believer in the need for personal contact and interaction. Being able to see a person’s reaction, to have social interaction, to just be around people and not a video screen, has benefits to the human. Saving GHG is fine but we should not lose the importance of human contact and social interaction.

  4. Stephen Evanoff

    July 13, 2010

    I think telecommuting policy resides in the domain of HR and should be part of a set of incentives to increase job satisfaction and associate retention. EHS can serve in a supporting role by communicating the EHS-related benefits.

    I agree with Dick that there is no substitute for direct face-to-face interaction and that telecommuting can only be taken so far in large, modern corporations.

    While telecommuting has great potential for service organizations, it has, of course, limited application in manufacturing organizations.

  5. Beth Kujan

    July 14, 2010

    July 14, 2010 article: Telecommuting Could Save Small to Mid-Sized U.S. Businesses $124B

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