Monday, September 8, 2008

Reducing employee energy usage

What part of your employees' daily activity uses the most energy? It is paper? Lighting? Computer and other equipment power?

Nope. It's commuting to and from work. Traveling from home to work and back again, plus any errands and lunch runs uses 10-20 times more energy than any other aspect of your company's carbon footprint. And yet most companies are still operating the way businesses did decades ago when onsite was the only way work could get done, and WiFi didn't exist.

Why? Why isn't telecommuting the norm instead of the rare exception? The biggest problems are habit (we've always done it this way), fear (how will anything get done), and misinformation. Ready for the facts?

Here are some myths about daily on site work, and some facts to help you make better decisions for your company, your employees and the earth.

Myth #1 Gasoline costs don't come out of company funds, so there is no need for a business to address it.

Fact: If employees are feeling the pinch, it's a certainty that your company will be hurt. A study at Florida State University found that as costs go up, employee productivity goes down. And that hurts your company's bottom line. When employees are having trouble paying their bills, including the cost at the gas pump, their ability to focus on work tasks will be impaired. That could mean less attention to detail, more rejected product or more accidents. And that costs your business real money. Saving employees money on gas and tolls can save your company money, too.

And the reduced commuting means less oil use, less air pollution and less new roads cutting through what's left of our green spaces.

Myth #2 If we let people work from home, they're going to be watching soap operas and walking their dog instead of working.

Fact: Employees working from home are actually MORE productive than their in-the-office counterparts doing the same job. Studies of this phenomenon have credited everything from reduced family stress to the absence of an exhausting commute. Plus the money remote employees save works like an instant raise, too -- that's also been credited for the higher productivity levels. Job commitment and retention also increased for employees allowed to work from home.

Myth 3# There is no way to evaluate the work of people who work at home, because we can't see what they're doing or how long they're doing it.

Fact: Warming a chair for a given number of hours a day was never a good measure of performance, so why are we trying to link at-home work to such an unreliable metric? Most jobs that work well for remote assignment involve some measurable performance goal...customer calls handled, reports or articles completed, items assembled. Whether it takes an employee 3 hours or 10 hours to complete the same level of work an onsite employee produces each day should be irrelevant. As long as the work is completed correctly and on time, you have your metric.

Myth #4 Providing computers, printers and WiFi for at-home employees would cost too much.

Fact: Many people already have the necessary tools for working at home. And even if you need to provide basics like a laptop and a WiFi connection, the investment is small compared to the huge potential energy and real estate savings your company will reap by allowing people to work where they live. In fact, the net energy usage per off site employee is usually far less than per on site employee, since homes seldom have the high ceilings, corridors and public spaces like lunch rooms most corporation must heat, air condition, light and maintain! So the earth benefits, too!