Telecommuting 2000

Transport Substitution


The varieties of telecommuting

Policy at government and local government level focuses on encouraging "mode shift" – that is getting people to change their mode of travel. Individuals and businesses, however, have it in their own hands to engage in some lateral thinking which will save them time and money by, as it were, avoiding the M6, M25 or the local bottlenecks and going to work on the "information superhighway".

Working from home reduces rush hour traffic

Eliminating some commute trips altogether by spending part of each week or even occasional days working at home has the potential to make a significant impact in reducing peak hour travelling.

A cautious estimate by the Review of Telework in Britain (1995), commissioned by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology reported that:

"the best available estimates for the UK suggest that home-based teleworking reduced total UK miles by some 1% in 1993 and that the long term potential is for some 5% to 12% of total car use to be substituted by telecommuting".

Working at local centres helps ‘multi site’ staff

Working from local offices – or "telecentres" – instead of the central office also reduces commute miles. A study of US and Scandinavian telecommuting centres in 1995 found that the number of commute miles saved each time a worker used the centre ranged between 38.5 and 150 miles, or 93.4 miles on average.

Monitoring at Surrey County Council’s Epsom telecentre found that users reduced the length of their commute journey on average by 19%, and its duration by 36%, reflecting the effect of congestion on their normal journey to the base office.

Replacing business travel with electronic communication

A study by the RAC projects that by 2007 videoconferencing will cut business travel by 20%. This is a difficult area to predict as companies place a high value on physical face-to-face meetings, and the tax regime has hitherto financially rewarded the clocking up of high work mileage.

But it is not just videoconferencing which is having an impact. Routine electronic sharing of information by email, electronic data interchange and the use of extranets all impact on the need to travel to meetings by reducing the need for meetings to exchange routine information and opinions. Face-to-face meetings should be reserved for team-building and making crucial decisions.

Increasingly, diagnostic and monitoring activities can also take place over electronic networks. This allows instant response, cuts travel and boosts productivity.

Working on the move

In the UK some 30% of the workforce regularly travel as part of their job.

For these workers unnecessary travelling and much greater efficiency can be introduced by using laptop computers and remote access technologies from home, from telecentres and "touchdown" sites, from client sites and by using wireless communication from anywhere.

It is important to recognise that for many kinds of business it remains vital to be out on the road and visiting customers or sites. The business mileage of such workers may be reduced in two ways:

  • eliminating repeated journeys to and from the base office, by allowing work to take place from anywhere
     
  • after initial meetings, building up online working with partners, contractors and customers to save repeat visits.

One important aspect of reducing congestion is that in eliminating unnecessary journeys roadspace can be freed for essential business users, public transport and emergency services.

 

Technology for telecommuting

Technology for successful telecommuting is already readily available.

Public telephone networks, ISDN and the Internet can now be used to extend organisations' internal voice and data networks to "remote" locations - homes, telecentres, vehicles and so on.

The remote phone and office PC can be as much a part of the company network as the ones in the office.

In contrast to conventional forms of transport, telecommuting technology does not pollute, is healthy and is getting faster and cheaper all the time.

 

 

"Face-to-face meetings should be reserved for team-building and making crucial decisions."

 

 

 

 

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