Teleworking Needs To Be Redefined
(Category KeyIdeas)

I infodump here very interesting conversation in Eric Brittons xWorkCafé and sustran list. This should be digested into a view here which clearly states that teleworkers are a critical factor of the population of GlobalVillages, but Global Villages are the only way to address the inevitable shortcomings of telework. (of which some are mentioned below) Franz Nahrada


Jonathon Porritt, ex-director of Friends of the Earth, has criticised government reports on teleworking as 'tokenist'

An environmental charity has called on the UK government to revise its policy on teleworking and encourage organisations to use it as part of their environmental policy.

On Wednesday Forum for the Future launched a report on teleworking which showed how it can be used to reduce the impact that companies have on the environment and promote sustainable economic development.

Jonathon Porritt, the programme director of the charity, said government reports on teleworking do not have enough information on how it can be used to improve sustainability. In particular, he criticised a report produced by the Department for Trade and Industry in 2003, entitled Telework Guidance, and a report by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister as respectively having "tokenistic references" and "only the odd tokenistic paragraph" on how businesses should use teleworking to reduce their environmental impact.

"The government in every level has got to stop pussy-footing around with sustainable development and embed in its practice," said Porritt.

The charity's report, entitled "Encouraging Green Teleworking", found that teleworking reduces the need for transport and will therefore contribute to achieving the government's targets on cutting carbon dioxide emissions. This is a necessity for the government after its admission on Wednesday that it will fail to meet its target on cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2010 -- something Porritt didn't duck during his speech.

"The Prime Minister thinks it's a pretty ambitious goal to achieve its climate change goal of 20 percent," said Porritt. "Well, so do I when I look at the government policy."

Sun, which commissioned the charity's report and has had a teleworking policy for five years, initially started its policy on teleworking due to the problems of traffic congestion during the dot-com boom, according to Richard Barrington, the head of government affairs at Sun.

"Part of the reason we started doing this was because of congestion," said Barrington at the launch event. "We did it purely because people were just sat in cars on roads. We started with drop-in centres along motorways -- industrial units where we had scattered technology."

Employees at Sun save two hours commuting time per week through teleworking, according to the report.

Companies can also save money by cutting down on the amount of office space needed. Sun has reduced its office space needs by 25 percent in the last four years through teleworking, according to the report.

But one environmental downsides of teleworking is that it requires more hardware, which requires extra resources to produce and creates more waste. One way to minimise this impact is for companies to use thin clients. Barrington said that a significant number of Sun employees in the States are already using thin clients at home and it is in the process of rolling out thin clients to home workers across the UK.

Porritt said that the technology side of teleworking is something which is likely to attract the government. "There's one bit of the sustainability that the government should like -- teleworking -- because its wonderously high-tech and glossy?it's lots of whizzy machines."

One important aspect of implementing teleworking is change management, something which Barrington says Sun is still dealing with.

"We still have a significant percentage of managers who don't like this, who think 'If I can't see, I can't manage, as I don't know what you're doing,'" said Barrington. "But if you treat people like adults or grown-ups, they tend to respond in kind."

Porritt has had a long involvement with environmental issues in the UK -- he was the Chairman of the Green Party in the 80s, was the director of Friends of the Earth for a number of years until he left in 1996 to set up Forum for the Future. He was appointed chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, the government's independent advisory body on sustainable development, in 2000.

In response to Porritt's comments, the government said that it was focused on giving companies practical advice on teleworking.

"Of course we recognise there are very important environmental benefits to teleworking. The guidance last year was intended for practical use for employers and employees," said a DTI spokesman.

comments in sustran / sustainable transportation

From Todd Alexander Litman Sent: Friday, December 10, 2004 3:57 PM To: Subject: [sustran] Re: Green activist slams government's teleworking policy

I think it may be a mistake to overemphasize telework alone as an environmental strategy. It certainly provides user benefits by allowing people to increase their housing and work location options, and to avoid some trips, but telework vehicle travel reductions and energy savings tend to be partly offset in the following ways:

. Teleworkers often make additional vehicle trips to run errands that would otherwise have been made during a commute.

. Employees may use teleworking to move further from their worksite, for example, choosing a home of job in a rural area or another city because they know that they only need to commute two or three days a week. In some cases this may encourage more urban sprawl.

. Vehicles not used for commuting may be driven by other household members.

. Telecommuters may use additional energy for home heating and cooling, and to power electronic equipment.

. Improved telecommunications may increase people's long-distance connections, resulting in more travel. For example, people may make new friends through the Internet, and travel more to visit them.

I believe that telework should be supported as a transportation option, but to significantly reduce external costs such as congestion, energy consumption and pollution emissions it must be matched with incentives to reduce driving such as higher fuel taxes, road and parking pricing, and distance-based vehicle insurance. Without those incentives, telework may provide little net benefit to society. For more information see the "Telework" chapter of the Online TDM Encyclopedia (

Best wishes, -Todd Litman

At 11:44 AM 12/10/2004 +0000, Brendan Finn wrote:

>Teleworking is good for those whose work permits it. I agree that it has >huge potential, especially in countries with a knowledge economy. > >A lot of attention has been paid to technical, organisational, oversight, >the arrangements within the home (or local office/desk), and >self-management issues i.e. to the work itself. > >Two aspects that must also be considered : > >a) The amenities where you are located if it s dead suburbia, you >don t really have access to very much during the day. After a while, that >s not a lot of fun. > >b) The local transportation system. Public transport is designed to >take you to/from the city centre, along the key arteries. It is ABSOLUTELY >NOT designed for the local run-about journeys of 2-3 km. These are, of >course, the typically journeys of home-makers and teleworkers. > >I d be very interested to see whether the great ecological savings from >the commute to downtown or out-of-town cube-farm is offset by a huge >amount of local trips, and even if people have found themselves having to >BUY ANOTHER CAR because the local transportation doesn t serve them. And >as we all know, short trips by car are ecologically the worst. > >Personal example at this stage. I work from home when I m in Ireland >(about half the time, my journey to work distance should make an >interesting distribution). I m in the suburbs of Dublin, good bus service >to city centre. But there s nothing for the local trips. What I can do in >5 minutes by car takes about a half-hour on foot, and probably as long >when I factor in wait time for the few trips that I could do by bus. I was >spending more time on simple errands (pick up some stationary, computer >accessories, call to travel agent, plus personal stuff) than I ever did in >the daily commute. In August I finally gave in me, a lifelong public >transport advocate and bought a car for the local trips. (The shame, the >shame!). > >The answer definitely lies in local flexible transport probably a >combination of small bus-based and affordable taxi where we can get >low-fare trips in shared vehicles at a level of service that is close to >taxi. Tariffs would be higher than regular bus, but probably not too much >more. Problem is, the city authorities don t want to know (they have >lovely highway plans), and both the bus operators and the taxi operators >see it as a threat. > >Anyone else got perspectives on this ? > >Brendan Finn, >ETTS, Ireland.

Another idea:

Maybe teleworking can be refined as an idea and explored much more fully?

Maybe we need "teleworking centers", a kind of "cybercafes" where you go to work. Maybe you even need to wear a tie to get in . Then you travel to the Firms' headquarters only a few times a month, or less.

The whole thing might work if some people specialize in providing a "packaged solution" to a Firm. Or if that Firm outsources "the problem", stating that the Firm wants to fulfill the aim of sustainability, good life, less costs, etc. Then small solution-providers "compete to do good".

Public administration offices are a place to start if the competition has to be open by law. Maybe EU HQ could set the example?

Maybe there would be a franchise of such cyberoffices? A village-Dilbert thing?

Profiles/FranzNahrada: Something like thisn exists in Belgium. Look here:

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