Monday, October 15, 2007

Bloggers Unite for the Environment

I found out from Charlotte that today is bloggers unite for the environment day. So, my post on how much I love my new house will just have to wait, because, well, how can I turn that down? I mean, if it were bloggers unite for the right to carry assault weapons, I just might be able to pass. But the environment?

And here you go: not only is it going to be about the environment, but it’s also going to be about telecommuting. Because, you see, I don’t happen to understand why more and more companies, most especially green companies, aren’t requiring their employees who don’t need to be on site to telecommute. I really can’t think of a much better way to cut down on the horrors of what automobiles do to the environment than getting rid of unnecessary drivers every morning and every evening. In more civilized countries, like those in Europe, people could probably be convinced to take public transportation, but in this country, where everyone wants to be independent, and no one seems to want to have to adhere to someone else’s timetable, public transportation is not very popular. Thus, if you live somewhere, like the Middle of Nowhere, PA, you can’t walk down to your local train station or bus stop and hop a train or bus to get to the office located 15 miles from your home, because of course, the train and bus companies would make absolutely no money off the ten people willing to do so.

I know there are some positions that absolutely require employees to be on site (for instance dental hygienists – and their dentists, for that matter). However, no one can argue with me anymore that even customer service representatives need to be anywhere but in their own living rooms, with the kinds of technology we have these days. It isn’t as if most customer service representatives are actually stationed in warehouses. After all, we are all perfectly aware of the fact that when we call almost any company for tech support, that we will most likely be speaking to someone in Prague or Bombay, not someone in, oh, Seattle, say. If companies are so hell bent on outsourcing to other countries, why can’t they also outsource to the next town over (I hope you understand that I’m taking complete advantage of the notion of poetic license here. I don’t want corporations outsourcing to the next town, hiring nothing but freelancers, and skirting their obligations to pay for benefits)? In all honesty, I’d love to know how many CEOs have a clue as to who 80% of their employees are and whether or not these employees are in the office at any given time.

And here’s the thing: once you get more and more used to the notion of not having to get up and drive to and from work every morning (at least based on this highly significant scientific sample of one telecommuter), you become very reluctant to have to get in the car to go anywhere. You really plan to go to the grocery store today, but then, as the day goes on, and you still haven’t bothered to change out of the sweats you’ve been wearing all day, you decide that maybe you can make some sort of casserole out of the 5 stalks of celery, the potato that’s growing roots, a little cheese, and the last few drops of milk in the carton. You’ve got that bottle of hot sauce that bar tender in New York gave you last summer that you’ve never opened. Hot sauce added to anything will make it taste good.

Now that Bob’s office is right across the parking lot, I’m imagining automobile costs that are going to plummet. I do still have to drive to places like airports for my job, and next week, I’m actually driving up to work at the office for a week, sandwiching my work week in between two weekends in CT to tie up some loose ends with our house up there (and to visit friends). I can walk to both the post office and bank, now, though, so those establishments that used to require car trips are no longer an issue. And really, besides food (and now cat food, litter, toys, and treats), what else do I need?

I think corporations are still afraid to let people telecommute. Corporate America has never trusted its employees. The average worker in America is treated no better than the average child of the early twentieth-century, with all kinds of strict and pointless rules and the threat of harsh punishment as a means of control. And what did those children do (especially the most creative of them)? They figured out ways to rebel and to fight the adults in their lives. They knew how to sneak around and have fun, without getting caught, despite all the rules (come on, tell me you don’t believe for a minute that all those people out there with all those extraordinarily clever and creative web sites aren’t sitting in cubicles at Mega Corporation desperate for some outlet to keep them from going insane, because they get their work done in three hours, but have been told they have to be sitting at those desks from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., even if their time would be better spent out talking to customers or doing research somewhere, and have nothing to do for most of the work day). Their parents thought their children were models of good behavior, when they really weren’t.

If you treat your employees like children, sure, they’re going to act like children the minute they’re given a little freedom. They may lie on the couch, eat too much candy, and watch T.V. all day. But if you treat your employees like adults, whom you trust, and whom you expect will get their work done, you just may find that they are actually more productive when they work from home, don’t have hour-long commutes, and are more relaxed, not having fought any rush hour traffic when they sit down at their computers to work in the morning. And even if you don’t believe they possibly can be productive without some manager there hovering over their shoulders every minute of the day, you should at least consider the fact that future generations at your company, if it is going to survive, will need a planet on which to do so. Allowing them to telecommute is one step towards insuring that planet survives.


Charlotte said...

You are right - there are so many jobs where telecommuting is possible. My husband's company allows it and I can testify that he is very committed and productive, sometimes too much so. They operate on the assumption that 5% of employees might take liberties with the freedom they have, but that the other 95% will make up for that by working longer hours than necessary. Which they do.

Personally, I love being able to work online - it's a huge liberation for me. I only have face-to-face meetings a couple of times a year, so never have to use my car for work.

Anonymous said...

Good post! Even living closer to where you work makes a big difference. My husband is now able to take public transit to work every day and he is so happy about it--more time to read! And I live so close to my work that I communte by bike most days. We sold one of our two cars this summer and didn't replace it. We are very happy about being able to do that.

Rebecca H. said...

I'd love to telecommute, except the only way I could do it is to teach all online courses, which wouldn't be a good thing (and they wouldn't let me). But I buy your argument completely -- people who can do it should be allowed to.

IM said...

I might be the one who sits on the couch all day if I had a telecommuting job, still I'd like to try it and see. I like the idea of this post, I'm sorry I missed doing a post myself, because North Carolina is experiencing the worst drought in recorded history right now. The Weather Channel is refering to Guilford County almost on daily bases. No Global Warming my ass (excuse me).

Anonymous said...

Great post--I totally agree with everything you wrote. (And I'd like the recipie for that casserole--I think I've made some variations on it, including a soggy onion and 3 year old parmesan cheese).

mandarine said...

Maybe what we can do to telecommute regardless of the cultural reluctance of neolithic-minded bosses (who, by the way, hardly ever touch a computer) is to telecommute for the successful Bombay-based companies to which the work is outsourced.

Emily Barton said...

Charlotte, I defintiely think it's true that the other 95% make up for the slack 5% by working harder.

Stef, I loved it in the days when I walked to work. Good exercise and nothing harmful to the environment. It's the next best thing to telecommuting.

Ian, we're becoming a desert up here, too. Wonder what it is if it isn't global warming?

Linser, I'll make the casserole for you next time you come visit and we spend the whole day lounging around in our sweats and are just too exhausted to go out.

Mandarine, or move to Bombay?

Dorr, the computer decided to eat your comment without publishing it, but I'll comment on it anyway: your job, unfortunately, falls under the dental hygienist category(at least, I think it needs to in order to have the sort of rich interaction that goes on in a non-virtual classroom).

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, I guess the computer decided to spit your comment back out, because now it's here.