The U.S. Office of Personnel Management defines telecommuting (also called teleworking) as "the ability to do your work at a location other than your 'official duty station.'" Personal computers and portable telecommunications devices enable employees to complete many work tasks from locations besides the traditional work site. The Washington State Transportation Working Group to the State Climate Action Team is recommending this strategy. At the federal level, each executive branch agency must enable employees to "participate in Telework to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance." Greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction for this strategy in Tacoma is estimated to be 86 tons by 2010-12.
Strategies and Greenhouse Gas Reduction
Cost to the City
The U.S. Conference of Mayors cites the Houston, Texas "Flex in the City" program as a model telecommuter program. This program cost the city $200,000/year, which includes a staff position for coordination and outreach, and associated overhead.
Barriers for employees:
Barriers for managers/employers:
Barriers for business community:
Benefits cited in research by Management Technology Associates, and anecdotal summaries by the North Carolina State Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. General Services Administration include:
This will be a partnership between the City and private employers.
At a minimum, the City must devote some staff to create an outreach and training program for employers, employees, and managers. The City may also follow Houston's lead and create a position to coordinate telecommuting efforts, and/or Chula Vista's lead and establish telecenters or co-working environments.
Houston, TX-Flex in the City
Houston works with more than 140 large employers to encourage telecommuting and flexible work schedules. A survey of employee participants found that 58 percent of the respondents reported morning and/or evening stress levels to be lower or much lower and 96 percent of respondents found their productivity levels on the job to be the same or higher than it was while commuting. The program is supported by the City and corporate sponsorship ranging from $500 to $7,500. The program is run to encourage telecommuting around target dates.
Chula Vista, CA (Peer Cities)
The City of Chula Vista set up telecenters to encourage telecommuting. Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per week decreased 954 miles per week. The centers have approximately 1,500 square feet housing computer work stations, lounge areas, conference rooms (including video conferencing technology), and office equipment. An electric shuttle van is being planned to encourage zero-emission transportation to and from the centers. The telecenters are funded by the City and corporate partners. A local university provides internet access. The buildings also demonstrate green building and design features. Current implementation information on this initiative is not available. Multiple marketing and outreach strategies are associated with the telecenters including pamphlets, leaflets, presentations, press releases, and advertisements.
Other Peer Cities
Other peer cities (cities with populations between 125,000 and 275,000 people that are members of the ICLEI Cities for Climate Protection) that prioritize telecommuting programs in their climate action plans include: Ft. Collins, CO; Durham, NC; Providence, RI; and Worcester, MA.
Seattle and Portland
The City of Portland's 2001 local action plan on global warming includes sought to enable 25 percent of City and county employees to telework at least one day every two weeks. The City also sought to expand the availability of tele- and video-conferencing facilities. Portland's 2005 update makes no mention of these telework initiatives. Seattle's 2006 Climate Action Plan does not prioritize telework strategies.