The series is based on my interview with Chuck Wilsker, who is a member of The Mobility Collaborative, consisting of some of the world’s top thinkers on transportation options, and President and CEO of The Telework Coalition, the leading telework non-profit in the United States.
Where are the signs of hope for the future of telework?
As younger generations begin to move up in the workforce, managers who do not or cannot manage a mobile workforce will not last for long. Generations X and Y are growing up with technology. They’re used to texting and emailing with people who are in the same room or half way around the world. A lot of people don’t want to be stuck in one location.
So what should managers do?
The key for managers is that they need to manage relationships. A manager has to make sure that key accomplishments are noted throughout the organization. That evens the playing field for on-site and telework employees. They also have to have a process in place for measuring an employee’s in-office performance so a comparison can be made with how they work from home.
What will make a stronger case for people to demand better telework options?
The good news is that about a third of employers have formal telework programs and policies in place. The not-so-good news is that only about a third of employers have formal telework programs and policies in place.
People need to know that an American who drives to work every day can save an average of about $8,000 per year in take-home pay by transitioning to full-time telework. That is according to a Telework Coalition study from 2004. These savings come from things like meals, maintenance and fuel for cars, clothing, laundry, dry cleaning, and doesn’t even account for wasted time. Think of how much our productivity could improve. Aside from showering and dressing, a one-hour meeting for me downtown can take up half of a day.
Are there other messages that can improve telework’s image?
The green, environment movement has helped with this. A lot of organizations are becoming more green and want to build strong relationships with other organizations that are green.
The number-one cause of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is vehicular emissions. I think teleworking is the best way to improve this problem. Building roads and bridges costs money, but telework programs don’t cost a lot of money to implement and can be set up in a short amount of time.
Is there a need for more advanced research and data to support more robust telework options?
The total number of Americans teleworking ranges from 5 million to 50 million. There has been no comprehensive study done on this in years. We do know that a conservative estimate is that about 30 percent of Americans telework at least some of the time. With 200 million people in the workforce, that equals 40 million to 60 million people teleworking.
Two other interesting areas: telework can help rural economic development by bringing jobs to people instead of them having to drive long distances to get to those jobs and can help Americans with disabilities enter or remain in the workforce. Fifty percent of the disabled in the U.S. are unemployed and the number-one reason is transportation.
There has been a lot of research done verifying the benefits that we have discussed. I have heard of very few telework programs being discontinued for any reason other than a new boss didn’t believe in it. Ask someone you know who teleworks how he or she would like it if their telework program were discontinued. Most answer that they would look for another job. Telework works for employers, employees, and our societies and communities!