What are the economic, social and environmental
impacts of telework? Changes in the way we work can offer a
variety of benefits, and are often claimed to provide benefits
across the "triple bottom line": business benefits, social
advantages to individuals and wider society, and to the
environment. But these benefits are rarely measured in a
The European research project SUSTEL is aiming
to change that. It has developed a consistent set of criteria by
which to evaluate the implementation of teleworking in 30
workplaces in 5 European countries.
In December the first round of results were
presented at a conference in London, including details of the
first wave of case studies.
Aims of the project
SUSTEL defines its aims as to:
enhance understanding of the economic,
environmental and social impacts of teleworking
assess the extent to which the impacts of
teleworking change over time
identify ways in these can be influenced by
organisations and governments
develop tools and guidance materials to enable
organisations to evaluate and optimise the sustainability of
Central to the approach is the development of
the detailed case studies, a "sustainability assessment tool"
and coming up with recommendations for policy to maximise the
In the sections below we provide some highlights
from the case studies of teleworking at British Telecom and
British Airport Authority.
Teleworking at BT
BT has been involved in teleworking since, it
seems, time immemorial. They don't just promote it, they do it.
Teleworking schemes have run under a variety of different names
over the years, but it has bedded in and for many is part of the
normal way of doing things.
The implementation here provides a very
important case study. Firstly, it's the numbers of people doing
it: around 6,300 out of 60,000 office based staff. Secondly,
it's the detail that is provided in the measurement of
teleworking activity and its effects.
Headline figures for the effects of teleworking
78% of staff say they are more productive -
generally estimated at 10-20% more productive
90% were satisfied with teleworking
22% said they had worked when otherwise they
would have felt too ill to travel in for a whole days work
BT say they have made £100 million per year
space savings: teleworking staff are expected to give up having
a permanent desk, and use touch-down areas when at the office.
Travel reduction is also significant, with a
reduction of car commuting of an average 178 miles per week per
teleworker, 220 miles per week for rail commuters.
Another interesting feature of the case study
concerns time budgets:
69% said their working time had increased
87% said that they had more time for their
6% said they had more time for community
These response indicate that although people say
they are putting in more hours, being based at home and avoiding
the commute also allows them to have a more fulfilling social
Teleworking at BAA
Teleworking at British Airports Authority,
Heathrow, is being driven by the need to optimise space and
reduce car commuting. Teleworking is promoted through the
Alternative Work Styles programme. 64 of the 250 staff at West
Point, Heathrow, now telework. The level of teleworking varies
from 1-2 days per week to 1 day per month. there are different
levels of uptake between departments.
Travel savings have been calculated on the basis
of just 2 teleworking days per month. With an average round trip
of 64.3km, that leads to a saving of 128km per month. This
is comparable with the results being achieved from BAA's very
successful car-sharing programme. It is pointed out that
teleworking is only in its infancy here, and has not been
promoted in the same way as the other options in the Company
Teleworking is also contributing to space
saving. Based on a survey of the under-occupancy of desks,
West Point has been able to consolidate space and lease out one
building leading to a £400k per annum saving. Teleworking is
only one factor here, but a conservative estimate is that it is
responsible for £36k per annum of this saving.
Full details of these case studies can be found
on the SUSTEL website. Also there are another 8 case
studies from the UK and Denmark.
Still to come in the project are further
monitoring of the case study sites, as well as the case studies
from the other 3 countries. We look forward also to seeing the
tools and business guidance that are to be developed this year.
If, of course, you can't wait for these, take a look around
Flexibility - you'll find plenty of guidance and some useful