Save the Planet: Work at Home

Photo: dmbaker

If every person in the U.S. with a telecommuting-compatible job worked at home on Earth Day, collectively it would:

  • Save 900 Million vehicle miles
  • Save 45 Million gallons of gas — $188 Million in consumer savings
  • Save 2.3 Million barrels of oil — valued at $185 Million
  • Eliminate 423,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases — the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year
  • Save 28 million kWh in net electricity — enough to power 2,600 homes for a year
  • Save 775 people from traffic injury and deaths

Less than 2% of U.S. employees work from home the majority of the time (not including the self-employed), but 40% could. If they did so just half of the time (roughly the national average for those who do), as a nation we would save over a half a trillion dollars a year and much more.

Telecommuting — specifically, home based work — offers a relatively simple, inexpensive solution to some of the world’s most vexing problems:

  • Environmentalists applaud telecommuting because it significantly reduces greenhouse gases and energy usage.
  • Astute company owners support telecommuting because of the cost savings and increased productivity.
  • Work-life experts endorse telecommuting because it addresses the needs of families, parents, and senior caregivers.
  • Workforce planners see telecommuting as away to avoid the ‘brain drain’ effect of retiring boomers.
  • Human resource professionals see telecommuting as a way to recruit and retain the best people.
  • Employees see telecommuting as a way to save time and money, and improve the quality of their lives.
  • Baby Boomers find telecommuting offers a flexible alternative to full retirement.
  • Gen Y’ers see telecommuting as a way to work on their own terms.
  • Disabled workers, rural residents, and military families find home-based work an answer to their special needs.
  • Urban planners realize telecommuting can reduce traffic and revitalize cities.
  • Governments see telecommuting as a way to reduce highway wear and tear and alleviate the strain on our crumbling transportation infrastructure.
  • Organizations rely on telecommuting to ensure continuity of operations in the event of a disaster or pandemic — all federal workers are required to telecommute to the maximum extent possible for just this reason.

It's time we made the road less traveled the way to work. Let's start with Earth Day.

Editor's note: Kate Lister was the principal researcher at

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Guest's picture

These figures are interesting and telecommuting certainly offers many benefits to many people. But what the figures presented here don't take into account is whether every worker can work at the same level of productivity at home as they can at work.

I telecommute on occasion - bad weather, waiting for repair person/delivery, etc. And I know that I am not nearly as productive at home as I am at work. Part of that is that a majority of my work is done over a network and requires large amounts of computing power. My home interent connection and company issued laptop just isn't fast or powerful enough to keep up. Even remoting into my desk top machine doesn't alleviate all of the problems. So, a better home office set-up would be least for me. Additionally, many of my projects are collaborative and/or I need help from our "tool elves" who build and maintain our software tools. At work, our main elf sits is my cubemate. So getting help is as easy as tossing a little ball of paper in his direction so that he takes his headphones off and can help me. We have communicated via email, phone and IM when one of us is telecommuting before, but it is not as effective and does take longer. I also know that, for my personality, I work better when I'm in an office situation. Not everyone is like this, but I know many who are.

Guest's picture

yeah that's great, but i have yet, in 20 years, worked in a place that encouraged telecommuting or looked on it favorably.  most bosses still require ass-in-seat, whether you're getting more accomplished than you would at home or not.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

I am actually more productive at home because people are not coming up to my desk to request things and breaking my concentration.  When they send me an email I have a record of their request and queue it up and work through it.  Currently I work at home once a week and it works out pretty well.  I am a software engineer so it is possible, but for some occupations it is not possible. 

Guest's picture

In this economy, people are afraid of losing their jobs if they don't put in enough face time. So even if you are working 20 hr days at home, the guy working 8 hrs at the office with lunch/smoke breaks is seen as "better."

My high-tech company used to allow telecommuting and people loved it. Now they disallow it (and no, management didn't change) and people are very unhappy and migrating to other shops around town.

Guest's picture

This is good for corporate as well. Save rent and employees can be rewarded more and or can be invested in telecommunication technologies like CISCO TELEPRESENCE.

Guest's picture

Three of my children and my wife have telecommuted. Each gets more work done and have really enjoyed it. Eventually companies that have a large percentage of their employees telecommuting will have such an advantage in lower costs (not having to provide office space, better retention rates) that other companies will be forced to embrace it.

Gasoline at $4, $5 a gallon or more will start the ball rolling.