Hurricane Sandy is forcing a lot of people to work at home today, and that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as our dependence on foreign oil. Just imagine if people kept telecommuting once Sandy leaves.
Aside from getting cars off the road, telecommuting also reduces office space demand, which helps to cut energy demand. Telecommuters may even use less paper.
But the real benefit of Sandy may be in demonstrating to managers that telecommuting works.
The federal government encourages telecommuting by its workers, and publishes an annual report (PDF) about its adoption. This report repeatedly cites management issues, not technology, as a major impediment to telecommuting.
"Management resistance" and “performance management,” another way of describing the management trust issue, are two leading impediments to telecommuting participation.
In the federal government “equity” is also a major issue in telecommuting. Agencies are more likely to let employees in professionals positions, rather than administrative, to telecommute. Evidently, a lot of federal managers don’t understand that anyone can be “professional” about their job.
And, by the way, the government also found that “teleworkers also reported a greater sense of empowerment, higher job satisfaction, and a greater desire to stay at their current job.”
But here is Sandy, keeping millions of private sector and government workers home for a day or two. And thanks to robust internal IT systems -- as well as public cloud systems -- these employees will remain productive as long as their network connections survive.
Sandy will deliver a lesson to managers who have trust issues. They will learn something about the work ethic of their employees and the ability of their IT departments to keep the business running.
Hopefully, more managers will recognize that telecommuting doesn't hurt productivity. They better get used to the idea, because we all need to adapt to weather, as a result of climate change, that is clearly getting more extreme and freaky and weird.