Whether you currently encourage your teams to work from home or you’d like to develop a program that makes working from home possible (and more prevalent), your efforts can not only boost morale and retention, but they can help mitigate environmental pollution and help your organization achieve its sustainability goals. And the impact can be significant.
According to a 2015 study conducted by Fraunhofer USA for the Consumer Technology Association, “telecommuting reduces annual vehicle miles travelled (VMT) by a weighted average of almost 1,400 miles per telecommuter.” As part of the study, researchers estimated this caused the United States’ overall energy use to be reduced by as much as 10.7 kWh, which is equal to the annual electricity consumption of nearly 750,000 households. In addition, the study concluded that annual greenhouse gas emissions from telecommuting were reduced, in total, by an estimated 5.9 to 8 million metric tons.
Of course, this is all well and good, but how can you ensure that when your teams work from home they’re able to create quality work, collaborate, and generally get their jobs done in the manner that you expect? The answer lies in technology. Let’s take a look at some of the types of solutions that can help your team work productively and combat environmental pollution.
Computers & Phones
The first things that anyone who works from home needs are a computer and phone. And while some organizations issue computers and phones to their employees, a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found that 73% of US adults already own their own laptop or desktop computer, 45% own a tablet computer, and 92% own a cell phone or smartphone. Which means that you could, conceivably, simply ensure that your team has the latest security software and the ability to back their documents up to the cloud, and forego issuing them computers and other devices supplied by your organization.
If you're going to work from home, having internet access, especially broadband, is imperative. Fortunately, most US adults have access to it at home. In fact, "roughly three-quarters of American adults have broadband internet service at home," according to the Pew Research Center. This means that your workforce probably already has it – and pays for it monthly. If you're able to provide a stipend to help offset their costs, it would be a bonus for your team, but because broadband is a service that they already pay for, it's reasonable to believe that it wouldn't be mandatory.
If your organization uses some of the most popular word processing, spreadsheet and presentation preparation software, it's easy to assume that they'll all have the "personal" version of the same software at home. But don't assume anything. Before any member of your team begins working from home, make sure that they have access to all of the same software they use in the office. This way, they can prepare professional documents and seamlessly collaborate on them with others. To ensure that your team has all the software they need, consider giving them access to a cloud-based version, which will automatically update and allow everyone to have access to the same tools – no matter where they are.
When two or more employees need to collaborate on a single file, a cloud-based document sharing service can help. Not only can document sharing solutions give you a repository for files, which you can organize by project, client, etc., but online collaboration tools like these can improve the way teams work. By giving its members a place to conduct team chats about direction, concepts, needs, concerns, timelines, expectations, etc., they can ensure that everyone understands the task at hand and delivers what they need to, when they need to.
Real-Time Team Chat & Web Conferencing
With members of your team spread throughout the city (or across the globe), finding a way to discuss upcoming projects, company news or simply conduct an annual review in person – without having to travel to a meeting place – can be difficult. But with innovative team chat and web conferencing tools that allow you to have conversations in real time can make communicating with others – no matter where they are – simple. With the power to read comments in real time, and/or see and hear a speaker, you can share information with one person – or a group – seamlessly. And because web conferencing allows meeting attendees to pick up on nuances and see materials, just as they would if you were in a conference room together, you can engage your audience and have meaningful, productive discussions without the need to travel.
Of all the ways to help the environment, giving your staff the option to work from home may be among the easiest. With all of the software and online collaboration tools available, working together, even though you're miles (if not thousands of miles) apart can be just as easy as working together in the same office. In addition, with the data related to working from home and reducing environmental pollution, and the ability to increase morale and retention, it may be just the answer you've been looking for.