How to Green Your Workplace by Promoting Remote Working Practices

 
 
By Mike Hollier  |  Posted 2008-12-22
 
 
 

How to Green Your Workplace by Promoting Remote Working Practices


Going green is trendy these days, and more and more businesses are taking the environment into account in regard to their buying and operating decisions. Across the country, businesses are installing solar panels, increasing the use of recycled materials and cutting back on product consumption and travel-all in the hopes of reducing their carbon footprints. 

While these actions are of course admirable, for many the simple act of getting to work still contributes immensely to their personal and office carbon emissions. American commuters emit 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year on their way to and from work. While that staggering number alone should be enough to influence change, commuting also results in enormous economic losses for businesses. Time spent in the traffic jams caused by American commuters results in a loss of 3.7 billion hours of productivity every year, which translates to a $63.1 billion annual loss for American businesses due to wasted time and fuel.

Enable remote working practices

So, what can employers do to help remedy this money-sucking, carbon dioxide-producing situation?  Promoting and enabling remote working practices is one obvious option to help curb the pollution and costs incurred by millions of commuters. Companies are increasingly leaning toward remote working policies in an effort to cap company costs, reduce employee commuting costs, satisfy staff demands for flexibility and fulfill green credentials. Yet, there still remain a number of technology-related roadblocks that stand in the way of successful remote working, which depends on complete employee satisfaction with the remote working experience.

Clearly, today's office and access networks are able to reliably deliver the multiple applications and processes that we all need and use as part of our working day. The access networks we have at home will, of course, allow employees to work remotely. However, for the remote working employee, the experience starts to fall apart when it comes to real-time voice and video-based applications, such as IP telephony and video conferencing-both of which are becoming more widespread and are proving harder to maintain on the corporate network. Issues such as delay, noise, echo and picture blocking negatively affect the quality of experience on telephony and video calls, thus compromising the remote working experience.

Overcome challenges with remote workers

If workers can't effectively communicate with colleagues from their remote working site as if they were local, the attraction and experience of remote working is severely reduced-not only from the employees' perspectives but also from the support perspective. No employer has the time or resources to "fix" all the remote worker application quality issues. And from experience, they know these problems generally take a long time to resolve on the corporate network, as the tools deployed don't understand application-specific issues and how to diagnose them.

The other significant problem that is emerging today comes from the user perspective. Once remote workers suffer from quality problems, they tend to lose confidence in the technology and will revert back to using their cell phone or public switched telephone network (PSTN) phone line, defeating the original objective of deploying this new collaborative and efficient communications environment. Again, employers do not have the time or resources to try to rebuild user confidence once lost.

Proactively Monitor and Solve Problems


Proactively monitor and solve problems

The answer to the issue of loss of confidence and extending operational and support resources is learned the hard way by many large enterprises today. The answer is to deploy operational tools that are able to proactively monitor and diagnose how the user's calls are going, based on their actual call experience. Proactive monitoring and rapid problem resolution help avoid confidence loss and enormous resource costs involved in troubleshooting voice and video quality problems.

In addition to ensuring that remote technology is up to the company's office standards, there are also other factors that must be considered when moving employees to remote work locations. The company must first decide which jobs and which employees are most suitable for relocation. To determine this, a company must consider several issues when examining their staffing arrangement. 

Some issues to take into account include how well employees understand their job function, their supervisory and security requirements, their level of self-motivation, and the effect that relocation would have on their workload and the workload of others. Companies must also consider the cost and level of care and maintenance that would be needed for these offsite technologies and how it compares to the cost-saving benefits of having their employees work remotely.

Increase employee productivity

Another advantage of allowing employees to work from remote locations is improved productivity. Remote workers are able to utilize time that they would otherwise spend commuting, while also cutting down on travel risks that could prevent them from making it into the office (such as severe weather, transportation failure, etc). Employees also don't have to deal with office distractions when working from home, which increases their productivity. 

According to The Midwest Institute for Telecommuting Education, overall employee productivity increased between 3 and 25 percent when employees moved out of the office to remote locations. This statistic, combined with the fact that remote workers demonstrate increased employee satisfaction, shows that telecommuting is cost-effective and beneficial for both companies and workers alike.

Thus, in addition to reducing company costs and carbon footprints, remote working is also a practice that helps keep employees happy. Aside from the obvious convenience that occasionally working from home can provide, many workers would prefer to work for a green company and would like to see their employers become more environmentally conscious in their practices.

Cut commuting costs

A 2005 study done by the Telework Exchange, an online community that strives to encourage remote working in the federal government, found that the United States' white-collar work force spends over $355.8 million commuting to work every day. Take into account the recent rise in gas prices, and one can only imagine what Americans are spending to get to and from work. The same study showed that American commuters used an astonishing 583.3 million gallons of fuel every week in commuting travel, and how that number could be reduced by 233 million gallons if workers were able to telecommute just two days a week. 

The money savings and positive environmental impact of remote working are clear, but businesses cannot make it a feasible reality without possessing the tools to ensure a high level of voice and video performance and support across remote or access networks. Investing in these technologies allows successful remote working, which in turn results in lower company costs, happier employees, and a more environmentally friendly and responsible business model. All of these factors contribute to better and more efficiently run businesses. And when all is said and done, isn't that the point?

 

Dr. Mike Hollier is the CTO at Psytechnics Ltd. Mike is a technical and commercial pioneer in perceptual engineering. Between 1990 and 1999, Mike directed BT's research into audio, video and multimedia performance assessment. Mike's Ph.D was gained from the University of Essex for his work on using models of human hearing to predict speech quality, contributing to the ITU-T PESQ standard.

During 2000, Mike led the incubation of Psytechnics and left BT to become the CEO. While CEO of Psytechnics, he managed the company's formation and early growth, raising further VC finance during the technology sector crash. This feat attracted an inaugural National Business Award in October 2002. Since October 2002, Mike has been the CTO, acting as a market evangelist and overseeing the R&D of a new generation of voice and video products.

Mike is a Chartered Engineer, twice winner of the Alan Rudge Award for Innovation, a fellow of the University of Essex, and a member of the AES. He can be reached at mike.hollier@psytechnics.com.


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