Our company purpose is to “Save Time.“This is best embodied by our animosity towards daily commutes. The concept is a terrible one — it leads to communities where people don’t know each other, where businesses fail even though they’re surrounded by residential housing, where downtowns become ghost towns every evening after 5pm. Telecommuting allows sane growth of suburban towns, reduces auto use, reduces road costs, increases civic pride and involvement, and generally improves life for everyone (except tollbooth operators, who may have to find different jobs).
More importantly for a company, telecommuting reduces employee turnover and increases company loyalty (because finding a telecommuting job is still tougher than finding a non-telecommuting one, and who would want to go back to commuting?), allows better use of salary dollars (because people get back 1.5–2 hours per day when they telecommute, they are often willing to forgo a higher salary if they can telecommute), and is a push towards better management practices (because “management by walking around” doesn’t work in a telecommuting environment, widespread telecommuting promotes more scalable project management practices).
I was reminded of all this when I read an article in Slate today called “Your Commute Is Killing You: Long commutes cause obesity, neck pain, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia.” This excellent piece details just how awful commuting is for your brain, body, and soul. I’m thinking about sending this article to all our clients who require people on-site for reasons other than national security or a need to move physical items from place to place (e.g., janitorial, messenger, or coffee services) — there’s just no justification for forcing people to work in that kind of situation. I keep waiting for the class-action lawsuit against some large company on behalf of commuters.
On the other hand, it is also a good argument for killing the concept of suburbs — while it’s possible to have a long commute when you live in the city, it’s a lot harder. (Though yesterday it took me an hour to go the four miles from our office to my house, generally it only takes me 20 minutes each way, which seems to be considered a reasonable commute. And added to the fact that I work from home three days per week, that means my commute is more like 10 minutes/day on average. Not as good as working from home every day, but not half bad.)
(Last week I was listening to the Politics Program with Mark Plotkin on WTOP. They were talking about a commuter tax, which would help DC immensely and which is in place in just about every large city in the country, but which is forbidden in DC by a ridiculously overbearing Congress. Someone called in all indignant because, “I moved to the suburbs for a better quality of life. Why should I have to pay a tax to work in the city?” People don’t understand there are consequences to their actions — they use the roads and services in DC, so they should have to pay to maintain them.)