Earlier this month more than 136,000 people pledged to telework as part of Mobile Work Exchange’s third-annual Telework Week. Today, Mobile Work Exchange (MWE), a telework advocacy group sponsored by several tech companies, released a report looking back on the results of this year’s Telework Week.
This annual event accomplishes a couple of things. First, it offers real savings for its participants and for the environment, preventing nearly 8,000 tons of pollutants from sullying our environment and contributing to diseases like childhood cancer and asthma. The report claims that pledges cut out 15.1 million miles of commuting, saved more than $12 million in commuting costs, and reclaimed more than 660,000 hours wasted in that mindless chore our society has come to accept as a necessary evil: the daily commute.
Which brings us to the second goal: raising awareness of the myriad benefits of this new(ish) way of working. There’s a lot of inertia to overcome for both employees and managers to transform the way work gets done; managers in particular might be nervous about ceding control to a mobile workforce. What they need is data, and Telework Week gives us a great data set that can help us evaluate telework’s worth. (Pledges fill out questionnaires detailing their work habits.) We know that 2013’s participants were mostly federal employees. This was largely a result of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act, which required all federal agencies to enact telework policies.
According to MWE’s report, the average worker could save more than $4,500 if they extended Telework Week over an entire year. Pledges also felt more productive while teleworking, an observation corroborated by management: half of the managers surveyed reported more productive employees, half reported equally productive employees, and no firm reported a drop-off in productivity as a result of telework. For a sample size as large as this, that’s a remarkable accomplishment.
Companies like Cisco, one of the sponsors of Telework Week, get it, and not only because they want to sell technology to teleworking companies: 89 percent of Cisco’s employees telecommute at least once a week. And Cisco and other companies seeking the top talent in their fields need to offer flexible work arrangements like telework just to stay competitive. In the end, it’s not just about the environmental benefits or savings for employers: teleworking is an extremely valuable benefit for employees. Indeed for some, it’s even more important than high pay.