Commute-free employees save money, environment

As much as he might like cruising around behind the wheel of his Mazda MX6, Ian Cruickshank opts to leave his car in the driveway two or three days each week.

Cruickshank is part of a program at Telus where call centre agents are encouraged to work happily from the comfort of their own homes.

The At Home Agent Program means big savings for the company. With less required real estate and smaller utility bills, At Home employees cost about half of their normal price. They’re also more productive, said Cruickshank.

But there’s more.

In about a year and half, Cruickshank – the manager of the program – has saved about $745 on gas, 4,061 kilometres of wear and tear on his car and 955 kilograms of CO2 emissions. He’s also saved about the equivalent of one entire stress-packed day that would have been spent jammed in traffic on Toronto streets.

How does he know all of this?

Aside from revolutionizing the concept of office, Telus is also using a new web-based “work anywhere” tool that accurately measures the benefits of letting employees work from home.

While anyone could ballpark a figure, Teletrips puts the financial and environmental savings into real numbers, helping companies realize “millions in operation savings, improve employees effectiveness and achieve significant improvements in environmental efficiency,” according to their website.

Teletrips works simply enough: after logging in, employees simply input their vehicle’s make and model along with the distance of their daily commute and how many days they’re choosing to work from home.

The numbers that come out can be staggering, said Cruickshank.

On average, At Home Agents save about $170 per year and about two full days of their time (not to mention 152 kilograms of CO2 emissions).

“(Employees) love it, they love working from home,” said Cruickshank. “We have very high rate of employee satisfaction.

“It saves them money and also gives them some work-life balance. They’re not spending half an hour or an hour or more driving to work.”

In 2005, there were about 30 agents enrolled in the At Home program. Since then, that number has shot up to 850.

“Some still do come into the office,” said Cruickshank, “but we’re gradually increasing the percentage (of employees that don’t).

“We’ll probably hit the 1,000 mark by end of this year.”

Telus is not alone. In 2005, teleworkers accounted for almost 10 per cent of Canada’s workforce according to a Statistics Canada report.

MORE OPPORTUNITY

Telework will never seriously threaten commercial leases, according to the director of corporate engagement for Calgary Economic Development.

“When you think about it, it opens up more opportunity for distributed workspace,” said Karen Chown, whose development group is leading an initiative to encourage telework in Cowtown.

Businesses will always require real estate, she argues. The question is just where: telework could eventually diminish the role of centralized offices in downtown centres in favour of smaller, regional outposts.

In these economic hard times, telework could even help companies struggling to make rent.

Like Cruickshank, Chown has observed serious savings flowing from telework in Calgary. Employees save between $2,000 and $3,000 per year.

They also seem to be enjoying their jobs and keeping them longer, she said.

But the biggest area of potential savings – oft ignored – is the environment. Telework and tools like Teletrips help businesses capture benchmarks in order to properly develop strategies to reduce emissions.

“Every business of any size is increasingly being asked what they’re doing (to help the) environment,” said Chown. “Clearly telework solutions fit into that environmental sustainability model very well.”







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