Our accounting practices may soon change to include the carbon tax. We have spent years encouraging people to look at the benefits of teleworking versus its costs. Our cost-benefit analysis focuses mainly on the standard cost elements such as space rental, technology, training and unspecified “externalities”. But soon many organization will be thinking about another benefit of teleworking, the carbon tax. Continue reading Telework and the Carbon Tax
Telework versus transportation: for the past four decades much of my work on telework and its telecommuting subset has been on demonstrating the relative advantages and disadvantages of those two. It all started in the early 1970s when I got fed up with wasting my time sitting in traffic twice, or more, daily. The commute to and from work was a drag.
Then came the proverbial lightbulb! If what I’m doing at work simply requires a phone (remember, this was in the dark ages of computing) and a desk, why do I have to fight traffic for more than an hour every day to do it? Why not do it from home (Starbucks hadn’t been invented yet either)?
Since then a growing number of people and organizations have come to the same conclusion, fortified by the evidence that telework and telecommuting are good for business. There are now tens of millions of teleworkers worldwide and the number continues to grow.
So now what?
The numbers are exploding: people can’t afford to live near where they work. Near means within half an hour or so from home to workplace (see my recent blog) . Now, in an article by George Avalos in the San Jose Mercury News, the plight is laid out for the Silicon Valley. Titled Housing woes spur Bay Area residents to ponder exodus from costly region, poll says, Avalos writes that the battle between ever-so-slowly-growing supply and bursting demand for homes in the valley clearly affects prices. “In July, the median price of a single-family home in the nine-county Bay Area was $804,000, up 10.1 percent from a year earlier ” Avalos wrote. Mind boggling.
There are two possible solutions to this dilemma: a) suddenly become immensely rich; b) move to your employer’s facilities full time or; c) move to where you can afford the housing. The second option evokes, mostly negative visions of the company town. The third option requires some serious thought.
As time marches on the daily commute gets longer according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As an article by Christopher Ingraham in the 16 September 2017 Washington Post points out, the average commute time in the U.S. has grown to 26.6 minutes each way. Among other consequences, this has promoted steady progress in telecommuting.
Let’s go through the numbers. Assume that the average American worker works 49 weeks annually after vacation and holidays are omitted from the total of 52 weeks. At 5 work days per week and two commute trips per work day that’s 490 commute trips annually. At 26.6 minutes per commute trip we find that the average commuter is spending 13,034 minutes, or 217.23 hours annually sitting in traffic. That’s 5.4 40-hours work weeks! More than a month of workdays uncompensated.
In June I posted a piece about global warming. The focus was on the role that methane could play in accelerating the warming process. On 23 August 2017 the New York Times published an article about the disappearance of permafrost in Alaska. The article, by Henry Fountain, begins with this:
The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as other parts of the planet, and even here in sub-Arctic Alaska the rate of warming is high. Sea ice and wildlife habitat are disappearing; higher sea levels threaten coastal native villages.
Some recent news stories bring up the prospects of reverse telecommuting. Almost 45 years ago I wrote a piece describing the dynamics of central office versus employee residence location. The point was that, as companies become established, the residence locations of their employees tend to form a circular normal distribution — a bell-shaped curve — centered on the headquarters
(HQ) office. I gave some examples of what happens when the HQ pulls up stakes and moves to a new location some distance away, usually because the CEO wanted to both have a short commute and live in the suburbs. The initial impact is that while the CEO and other employees living nearby have a shorter commute, the average employee has a longer commute to the HQ. The result often is turmoil, dropping morale, lowered productivity and attrition. The attrition comes from those employees who can easily find jobs near their existing residences and perceive little penalty in leaving; often those are the most productive employees.
The media have frequent stories about one aspect or other regarding global warming. What they often don’t do is discuss the tradeoffs; the rocks and the hard places on the path to a livable and sustainable climate. The problem with all these bits and pieces of information is that, while we are discussing them, the climate is changing — mostly for the worse — while we continue to be locked in unproductive discussion. The climate clock is ticking whether or not we’re paying attention. I’ve written about this before, here and here, but now it’s time to expand on those ideas.
An article by Andreas Goldthau in the 8 June 2017 issue of (paywall) Nature covers many of the main rocks and hard places. Its emphasis is on the role of the G20 nations plus China in approaching the solution. Here’s a summary of it with my own comments.
Continue reading Global Warming: The rocks and the hard places
According to the Wall Street Journal of 18 May 2017 [Note: the referenced article has a paywall], IBM has decided to call in all its telecommuters. The option given to the telecommuters is either to come in to an IBM facility every day or look for a job with some other employer. This was a shock to me since I helped IBM get its telecommuting program started in 1984, way back in the 20th century. So IBM has been supporting (and lauding) telework for 33 years. And now they have decided to stop it, to retreat to the pre-1980s. This does not seem to be a wise move. Why are they doing it?
The answer from IBM sounds a lot like Marissa Mayer’s excuse for calling in the telecommuters of Yahoo! Business is bad and it doesn’t seem to be getting better so it’s time call in all the troops in order to ignite a burst of innovation. Get them together every day so that the ensuing interpersonal communication (or friction), like striking a match, will produce light and the company will turn the corner and prosper. The implication, of course, is that business is bad because of telecommuting. Therefore it’s the telecommuters who are the source of the problem. It’s what my friend, Gil Gordon, calls telescapegoating!
According to news reports President Trump thinks that global warming is a Chinese propaganda plot and has no basis in fact (or at least in alternative fact). Therefore, Trump concludes, there is no sense in providing government funding for research on it. Why squander taxpayers’ money on something that doesn’t exist?
There is, of course, the troubling fact that thousand of scientific papers and scientific conferences worldwide have identified global warming with increasing accuracy. There is the troubling fact that some of the long term effects of global warming seem to be happening prematurely. Effects that weren’t supposed to happen for years seem to be occurring already. More intense weather: droughts; floods; windstorms are occurring more often than historical statistics would predict. Why is this?
For years we have had a do-it-yourself telework cost-benefit analysis on our website. That analysis focuses mainly on the direct costs and benefits of telecommuting versus the daily commutes between home and work. Now let’s expand that analysis with some thoughts about the other costs of the commute; pricing the commute.
To be comprehensive, pricing the commute requires some analysis of the other factors beside out-of-pocket expenses: those so-called externalities. These additional factors include: the drag; health hazards; physical dangers and psychological effects. An article by Nathan Brooker in the 25 March 2017 Financial Times FTWeekend edition, titled Commuter pain or gain? gives one such analysis although it focuses on mass transit rather than private cars.
Let’s look at some of these factors, focusing on pricing the commute by private car. Continue reading Pricing the commute