Re: Flexible Workplaces Demand Cultural Change

July 24, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Excellent post. You are correct in IDing the inability of managers and executives to manage workers who are "sight unseen" as a major stumbling block to telework.

The workplace is now and becoming mobile, global, and remote. Executives and managers no longer have the practical ability to "see" all of their staff and teams while they are working. That era ended with the advent of the laptop and the cellphone. Bottom line: if managers and executives don’t know how to manage remote workers then should either learn, or find another career.

But there is another stumbling block to telework, which are the huge subsidies and cost biases favoring offices and commuting that creates a large corporate inertia against change. Employers receive “free” roads and mass transit systems and they can offer parking and transit to employees as tax-free fringe benefits. Meanwhile aggressive corporate real estate agencies and divisions negotiate generous tax abatement freebies from economic development agencies. But there are no such offsets for telework.

Here’s the rub: employers who do not have telework policies, and who require employees to commute, are worsening employees’ quality of life by adding unneeded stress and out-of-pocket costs resulting from commuting, are forcing healthcare costs to rise, and they are accelerating our planet’s demise.

Roads, parking, mass transit systems, and buildings consume huge swaths of life-giving greenspace, wetlands, and farmlands, while vehicle use is responsible for air-damaging and health-harming emissions, from energy extraction to consumption and disposal. Offices themselves are “germ factories.” Meanwhile emergency services as well as health costs escalate from vehicle “accidents”.

All of the factors incur steep costs. And "green buildings" don't offset them if employees have no other choice but to drive to work. But none of these costs are attributed back to the source, which are the employers’ decisions as environmental resource consumers, including whether or not to offer telework, and to reduce their size of their building, transportation, and environmental footprints.