Sep 26 2008

Why Are We Still Wasting Gas (Petrol) Traveling To Offices

Posted by Mike Brunt at 6:53 AM
11 comments
- Categories: Default

Why are we still needing to travel to offices daily? I live in Los Angeles and we have a huge traffic problem, of course we are not alone with that problem in LA. It intrigues me that after all the pontificating and rhetoric from both Obama and McCain (in the US elections) about reducing dependence on oil, the concept of telecommuting is hardly mentioned.

Recently I took a driving trip from Los Angeles to a city called Lake City in Colorado, for the record, Lake City is tranquil and the drive to it, idyllic. I had someone drive for me, most of the way and with my broadband wireless card I worked most the way there, most of the way back and also some of the time I was there; well I did want to rest some of the time. In most cases, there is absolutely no need to work at an office building and there are virtually no advantages to doing so. We spend hours sitting cars, sedentary and polluting our planet.  When we get to the office, we are typically subjected to gossip and ensconced with many people with whom we have nothing in common and typically this creates banal conversation. I won't go on.

We really should be telecommuting, worldwide and I have to assume that we are not doing this more often because of the belief in some corporate cultures that cannot be trusted to produce the results we are required to produce unless we travel to an office every day.

Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions on this?


Comments

Toby Reiter

Toby Reiter wrote on 09/26/08 9:20 AM

I think there are real and substantial advantages to working in an office environment.

I do not think that email and phone conversations alone are enough to really connect with people. And as a developer, I know that communication is the important tool in my toolbox. If I can't communicate effectively with the people I'm coding for, I'm not going to be able to fully meet their needs.

Now, you are right about one thing -- it's ridiculous to waste gas commuting. I live in a city. I live a 45 minute walk from my work (although I almost always bike or take public transportation). I do not believe it is unrealistic for most other people to eventually make the same choice if they care about the environment. The more people who move away from car-dominated society, the easier it will be for everyone to make this decision.
Sami Hoda

Sami Hoda wrote on 09/26/08 11:19 AM

Mike,

I think you're also assuming a few things.

1. That we can all afford broadband cards.
2. Our work revolves around a computer mostly.

As a manager, I need to be in the office to work with other managers on other priorities.

And living in LA, driving 1 hr, each way, every day, I know exactly what you are talking about. Those days I'm working solely on code or server maintenace, or when I have no meeting (those rare days), I'd love to work remotely.

Its a balance, its necessary, but yeah, can we get more people thinking about it, and offering to pay for alternatives, I'm with you.
Mike Brunt

Mike Brunt wrote on 09/26/08 2:44 PM

@Tony, I agree that not using a car is an optimal solution but I think the reality of that happening most of the time is unlikely. When I wrote this piece I was not only referring to technology jobs I was making an overall comment for office work generally. In places like LA we cannot go on increasing the amount of traffic and it seems to me that telecommuting is a relatively easy and effective solution.
Mike Brunt

Mike Brunt wrote on 09/26/08 2:56 PM

@Sami thanks for your comments and thanks for the reality check for me. I was of course highlighting an experience I had which does relate directly to technology-computers.
Nick Kwiatkowski

Nick Kwiatkowski wrote on 09/27/08 12:07 PM

I would agree with you that Telecommuting would be an awesome idea to reduce traffic. However:

(a) We don't have a national broadband policy. Neither candidate currently has been talking about it. Outside of major cities (and California in general, I assume), broadband is NOT available. Sure it covers 70% of the people, but to the government, ISDN almost qualifies as broadband.
(b) Those who would benefit most from telecommuting are those who drive the furthest. Many people who live in the country don't have broadband because it is either too expensive, or unavailable. Since we would be piping telecommunications and data over these pipes, it needs to be big. What if a worker can't afford the large pipe that is required, should the business be required to pick it up? How about working computer? Phone?
(c) Many companies have a general distrust that workers will be effective if they work from home. A lot of this stems from where managers aren't able to peek into your office or cube and see that you are not playing solitaire. Without that ability, managers feel they will loose control of their workforce.
(d) Many of the worker's laws are grey areas when the person doesn't work from a traditional office. Does workman compensation apply? How about many of the ADA, or available resource laws? Should I be entitled to smoke from home, if my company bans it at the office?

I am on a committee at my office that is trying to form the polices that would allow us to telecommute. The above issues are ones that we were told to address in our pilot. The only reason why we were told that we could even go down this road was that our power plant found that if our office did telecommuting 1 day a week, we could save 10-12% in utilities costs. That's a huge amount, considering it doesn't count my costs of getting to the office.
Mike Brunt

Mike Brunt wrote on 09/29/08 1:08 PM

@Nick thank you very much for those insights obviously I had not thought through some of the details as they pertain to employment laws. Thanks very much for this insightful and detailed comment.
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