Tag Archives: telecommuting v. travel costs

Stressed commuters get support from Court

Flash

According to an article in the 10 September 2015 BBC News, some commute-stressed commuters who live in the European Union now have support, if indirect, from the European Court of Justice. Specifically, the court ruled that:

Time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments by workers without a fixed office [emphasis mine] should be regarded as working time.

More specifically:

The fact that the workers begin and finish the journeys at their homes stems directly from the decision of their employer to abolish the regional offices and not from the desire of the workers themselves.

Requiring them to bear the burden of their employer’s choice would be contrary to the objective of protecting the safety and health of workers pursued by the directive, which includes the necessity of guaranteeing workers a minimum rest period.

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Commuting costs

Time for a review of Business Economics 101. Focus on commuting costs. The problem with this cost review is that it all depends on who is counting and what is being counted. Commuting, that daily to and fro between home and workplace, usually is viewed entirely differently by commuters and their employers. Commuters may look at commuting as a cost of transportation. Employers, mostly, consider commuting costs as what economists call externalities: something that may or may not exist but is of no concern to them unless it disturbs the normal work routine.

The view of both of these groups is way too limited. Commuting imposes costs on all parties involved.

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SecDef Telecommutes? Shocking!

In the 2 September 2011 Los Angeles Times there’s an article titled: Panetta’s commute raises eyebrows. The gist of the story is that many Washingtonians are shocked, shocked that the Secretary of Defense could even consider boarding a U.S. Air Force jet to fly home to California for a three-day weekend. Almost every weekend. Never mind that Panetta’s ranch in the Carmel Valley is fully equipped with the telecommunications technology to allow him to keep in constant touch with the Pentagon 24-7.

What memories this situation arouses in me. Flash back to the mid-1960s when I was still a “rocket scientist” engaged in some highly classified research for the Air Force. In Los Angeles. One afternoon I got a call to brief the Undersecretary of the Air Force at 9:30 the next morning. In the Pentagon. One does not refuse such a request so I dutifully boarded the “redeye” to Washington, arriving the next morning at about 6:30 AM. Upon arriving at the Pentagon I was told that the briefing had been postponed to 2:00 PM. At 1:00 P:M I was told the briefing was cancelled. So I climbed on the evening plane back to LA, never having briefed the Undersecretary. I thought: there must be an easier way.

A short time later I was told that there was a secure color TV link to the Pentagon in an office about 50 meters from my office in LA. Had I been a General I could have used that link instead of making that fruitless and expensive round trip to the Pentagon. To borrow a phrase from Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town: “What a waste of money and time!”

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