Yahoo's decision to end their work-from-home policy caused quite a stir. I won't second-guess Marissa Mayer's decision to do this, because I'm not there. She's got on-the-ground knowledge.
However, as a long-time telecommuter and huge fan of this mode of work, I would leave Yahoo rather than give it up. Here's why:
From a green business perspective, telecommuting is a Triple Bottom Line practice.
People - Commuting to work is generally not adored by those who do it. Telecommuting:
- Gives you back your life - literally. How much of your life do you want to spend sitting in traffic? My last employer was 15 miles away, a 30 to 45-minute trip during rush hour. When the traffic was really bad, it was closer to 90 minutes a day. Conservatively, that's 5 hours a week for 50 weeks a year or 250 hours a year. Do the math for your commute. Really think about that number. You never get that time back.
- Reduces stress. For me, almost any activity is less stressful than driving in rush hour traffic. And stress, as a recent Fortune article reminds us, can kill you. Among other things, I use the extra time to sleep. That's not lazy - that's healthy. Wondering if being crazy-busy is bad for you? It is.
Planet - If the Earth could hug people, it would hug telecommuters because they:
- Use less gas. And thus are responsible for less pollution related to the drilling for, transporting, refining and distributing of oil and gasoline.
- Produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. In my case, not driving an extra 7500 miles per year avoids about 3400 pounds of GHG emissions. TerraPass has a simple calculator to help figure out what you could save, based on your specific car and commute.
- Can drive their cars longer. My Honda Civic Hybrid is 10 years old. Not buying a new car - with all the attendant steel, rubber, plastic, glass, fabric, electronics, wiring, etc. required - conserves natural resources for the planet.
Profit - Telecommuting cuts costs and boosts revenues for my business.
Cost savings include:
- Lower car maintenance bills. I replace tires, brakes, oil and so on less frequently because I drive my car less. The Honda dealer has actually tried to buy my Civic back becuase it's in such good condition.
- Lower bills for gas. Driving 7500 miles less per year means using about 166 fewer gallons of gas. At $3.50 a gallon X 166 gallons, I save about $583 a year. If you don't drive a hybrid, you'll save a lot more.
- No tolls. My old route cost $3.50 a day, $17.50 a week, about $875 annually.
More revenue comes from:
- Using the extra 250 hours a year to do more billable work. I don't burn the midnight oil. I just use the time otherwise lost in commuting.
- Using the extra time to invest in ongoing business education. From conferences to courses to reading business books, it's essential in order to provide the best client service.
These are MY numbers. According to Global Workplace Analytics, some 3 million Americans telecommute some or all of the time. That's a fraction of the number who could telecommute. I encourage you to try it!
Tips for Successful Telecommuting
How you telecommute really depends on your work style. There's no one right way to do it. Here are 5 tips that work for me:
- Have an office space with the proper equipment. Have people who can troubleshoot your equipment when it acts up.
- Office doors physically separate my workspace from the rest of my life. When my daughter was young, she knew that closed doors meant that Mom was working and she had to wait. Unless she was bleeding. My doors have big glass insets, so I could see if she was bleeding.
- Focus on results. When I write something for a client, they don't care if I wrote it at Starbucks or behind my office desk. They just want it to be good and achieve their business objectives. Businesses that don't trust that you are working unless they can see you are behind the times.
- Maintain regular communications with your boss and co-workers, or with clients. It keeps isolation at bay and ensures you are in the loop when circumstances change. Take the initiative to overcome the "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome.
- Get out of the house every day. Continual sitting is actually a health risk, so don't feel guilty about taking breaks. It gives both body - and your creativity - a boost.
Telecommuting and kids
One thing I did not do was work from home and try to care for my child at the same time. My daughter always had childcare in a different location. That choice worked well for my family. Your choice may differ.
So telecommute if you can!
It's a win for you, your clients, and the planet. How often is that the case?
Final shout out: Here's A Visual Breakdown of the Benefits of Working from Home from the LOHAS blog in October 2012.
Alison Lueders is the Founder and Principal of Great Green Editing. She provides writing and editing services to businesses and social enterprises that value high-quality content. She earned her Bronze seal from Green America in April 2013 and Platinum-level recognition from the Green Business Bureau in 2012.