Mobile Enterprises Help Save the Planet

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — April 22, 2013

Although many might say that “everyday is Earth Day,” the official date this year was Monday, April 22. The purpose is to drive awareness of how to conserve and recycle resources for the benefit of all, and mobile workers and companies who support them are doing that whether they realize it or not.

To determine the environmental impact of working from home, TeamViewer, a provider of remote control and online meetings software, recently released its Telecommuting for Earth Day survey results. The study revealed that a majority of mobile employees are proactive every day when it comes to environmental concerns. For example, 74% turn the lights off when not using a room, 60% make their own lunch and 56% keep heating and air-conditioning low to save energy.

Employee Impact
“The study shows that not only do employees stand to save money when they are able to work from home, but the specific behavioral changes that people exhibit contribute significantly to the conservation of our environment,” said Holger Felgner, General Manager at TeamViewer.

Nearly all employees (97%) say they use fewer resources when working from home, including gas (86%), printer paper (31%), electricity, markers and pencils (15%), shower water (13%) and even pain pills (12%). Paper alone has a significant impact. According to the EPA, Americans use about 71 million tons each year, while paper makes up more than a third of all recyclables collected in the U.S., by weight.

More than half of respondents, 53%, actually print as little as possible, while exactly half power down their computers in the evenings. Oddly, those who do print — print a lot;  20% print more than 50 pages daily. According to respondents (62%), it’s management and above who waste the most paper, while 8% think it’s the CEO who prints the most.

Women were more likely than men to print less, turn off the lights and reduce heating and air conditioning, a greater percentage of men say they use less shower water and tissues when they work from home.

Beyond the general environmental impact of telecommuting, the study also showed that employees stand to save a significant amount of their own money when they are able to work from home. The majority saves at least $1 to $40 daily, while 19% saves more than $40, and an additional 6% say they save in excess of $80 per day when they work from home. This adds up, as telecommuters have less reason to use fuel or go out for lunch.

Business Impact
Productivity and return on investment are usually the keywords associated with the business decision to move to mobility, but surprisingly, 62% of the managers in this survey, said the environment “somewhat strongly” influences the decision.

The Telework Research Network goes as far as saying “Strong national telecommuting programs would increase GNP, reduce the national debt, and bring the balance of trade back in our favor.” The organization states that there are billions of dollars of savings for both mobile workers and the business.

Though, savings on commodities are more easily measured for both employees and the enterprise, the real ROI of mobility is just starting to be realized. A recent Yankee Group survey shows that 40% of companies rate the amount of time, dollars and effort involved in deploying their mobile apps as high. However, 62% say that the corresponding business value they have achieved, in terms of the impact on their organization’s revenue and profits, has also been high.

And in actuality, according to WorldatWork, a nonprofit HR association, businesses lose $600 billion a year in workplace distractions. Why then, of late, there has been some controversy around remote workers? Yahoo banned mobile workers and Best Buy changed its policies.

Often times people who telework are perceived as slackers, but the truth, WorldatWork points out, is that telework requires above average organizational and communication skills, is actually more valued by top performers and helps attract and keep them.

"Telework is a highly effective tool for organizations who need to retain top talent," said Rose Stanley, WLCP, work-life practice leader for WorldatWork. A majority of the employers surveyed by the organization said flexibility programs have a positive or extremely positive effect on employee engagement, motivation and satisfaction.

The benefits of a mobile workforce far outweigh any issues, but for most enterprises the one top concern is security. Policies, solutions and strategies are ever-evolving as does the enabling technology.

One thing, however, not often thought of by companies when moving towards a more mobile workforce is training leaders for a new business model. According to the WorldatWork, only 21% of employers train managers on how to implement and support flexible work arrangements, and only 17% train workers on how to be successful as an employee with a flexible work arrangement. Success here can often depend on leaders who manage by objectives, not by observation, and this critical skill needs to be taught and learned.


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