Over one month into 2010 already. Time always slips by faster than I expect. In the meantime, plenty of predictions have rolled in about the future of telework in the coming decade. These predictions are not pulled out of thin air. Instead, many seem to predict that we will build off trends that have already been occurring over the last few years. These ideas are compatible and will spur one another forward. What am I talking about?
In the next year and beyond, experts agree that we will be going green and going mobile. We see it all around us in the small and the big ways. Need an example of a small and a big way all in one? Well.
A personal ‘green example’: I was at Target the other day. I declined a bag and was given a small discount on my purchase as a result. Perhaps I am behind on the times and/or living under a rock, but this was news to me. I knew of other retailers that offered similar incentives, but I simply didn’t expect it from the Minnesota-based giant.
These types of practices are becoming more and more common as businesses of all shapes and sizes become more and more green. A few cents off for not using a bag may not seem like a big deal, but I see it as an indicator that our culture is changing. The small ways are reflective of the big changes. These kinds of changes, while indirect, pave the way for telework.
And, while the idea of mobility is desired for more than just its green compatibility, there is no denying these concepts often go hand in hand. Our wireless capabilities are growing and our hesitancies are diminishing.
This is good news for telework, good news for business, and good news for us all. Not convinced?
How about a direct example in the government: Even the White House encourages its employees to telework – not just during emergencies but routinely as a practice that supports the Obama administration’s policy to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. If you want people to take you seriously, you’ve got to set a good example, right?
Paternalism aside, everywhere in the country we see telework catching on.
In fact, another large private employer gets it too: Chattanooga, Tennessee, anyone? Their biggest employer, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, wants to double its telecommuting staff from 400 to 800 in the next year because the program is working so well in terms of cost savings as well as productivity. And on top of all that? Mobile and green!
Call me an optimist, but this decade is looking mighty, mighty good for all these reasons and more.
Adeel Lari, M.B.A., P.E.
Director of Innovative Financing, Research Fellow, and Teleworker
Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
University of Minnesota