Is telecommuting a greener way to go?
The surprising answer -- not always
In 2009, 17.2 million Americans worked remotely at least one day per month, an increase of 39 percent over the previous two years. (Doug Griswold/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)
Need more pluses? Telework is seen as a way to alleviate strain on our crumbling transportation infrastructure, a way to lessen dependence on foreign oil. It could provide employment for the disabled and at-home caregivers.
The Telework Research Network, an advocacy group, has estimated yet another benefit: fewer traffic deaths. If 40 percent of American workers clocked in from home half the time, 1,500 fewer of us would die on the highways. (The Network's Web address is quite amusing: undress4success.com.)
Beyond all this, what if on the day you worked at home, you could take a sink bath instead of a full-length shower, saving both water and the energy to heat it?
What if working from home means you can dress casually and skip some dry cleaning?
Challenges exist, to be sure. Things like worker isolation and cyber security. And not every job can be done off-site.
As some have noted with weariness, if your work is literally in your home, it never really goes away. It's always chattering at you.
I've been trying to telecommute one day a week. It has taken some adjustment. I'm routinely anxious about whether I'm doing enough -- or whether I'll be perceived as doing enough -- and what my bosses and colleagues will think.
So, as the studies predict, I probably work harder. It's easy to sit in the office and look as if you're working. If you're home, you need to prove it.
But I've been saving both time and gas.
And talk about improved quality of life.
One of my best days ever "at work" was a warm day last spring. Instead of hitting the highway for an hour, I hauled the phone, computer, an extension cord and a table out onto the front porch.
It overlooks woods, flowers and a stream.
A few curious people I talked to by phone that day asked, "Do I hear birds singing?" And I happily answered, "You certainly do."
Visit Sandy Bauers' blog at http://go.philly.com/greenspace.
Visit Philadelphia Online at http://www.philly.com/
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