With increasing access to world markets being facilitated by trade liberalization, it is clear that North American businesses cannot become complacent about continuing to increase their operational efficiency. To do so would be to accept, unquestioningly, that foreign competitors shall have the upper hand in the international market, due often to government subsidies and/or lower costs for production inputs, particularly labour. Therefore, if the home workplace can reduce operational costs and/or increase productivity then there is an ECONOMIC imperative to consider it, providing it is operationally viable.
Combined with the efficiency imperative is the need to increase the attention paid to environmental issues. This impacts individuals and small enterprises just as much as large corporations, particularly where governmental intervention mandates such consideration. Recycling and re-use are positive steps but are clearly, by themselves, insufficient. Use of the home workplace reduces pollution in two ways:
- pollution associated with commuting is reduced by the net amount of employee commuting driving which can be eliminated, specifically driving for which vanpools, bus or LRV/heavy rail substitutes are not practical
- pollution associated with operating large office complexes is reduced in proportion to the downsizing of such facilities which the home workplace will facilitate.
There is thus an ENVIRONMENTAL imperative to consider the home workplace, where it is viable. Nowhere is this more true than in California and WTC previously worked with a State Assemblyman to help draft a bill intended to provide double write-offs of capital and operating expenses directly associated with deploying workers to the home workplace and maintaining them there.
There is also an ENERGY imperative for the home workplace. Reduced commuting, and more flexibility when commuting is required, leads to reduced energy consumption by employees. Reductions in central office size also point to reduced energy consumption by those facilities.
It is noteworthy that each day a worker spends working at home:
- consumes no fossil fuel for commuting, reducing both congestion and pollution;
- consumes no commuting time and induces no commuting frustration;
- exposes to worker to less pollution and less risk of accident;
- requires less trunk system energy input and capital input for shelter and infrastructure support;
- permits the worker to be less distracted and to function in a more restful and pleasant environment, and one more to his or her own liking; and
- reduces employee clothing, dry cleaning and dining costs.
In most cases, increased pollution and/or energy consumption associated with more employee time spent at home (and with any local driving during the day) will be greatly exceeded by the environmental benefits and energy savings resulting from the home workplace. In a broader context, and over a number of years, widespread implementation of the home workplace would reduce urban concentration and congestion and thus reduce both the mega- energy consumption and mega-pollution associated with very large urban complexes. With intelligent telephone (and future network) access charges, distance from the employer facility would no longer be a major parameter in deciding where to locate one’s home.
Thus, over the mid-term to long-term, the benefits of the home workplace are as follows:
-reduction of mega-capital concentrations, mega-energy demand and mega-pollution due to the potential for major physical decentralization of the information worker population and moderate physical decentralization of ‘touch worker’ population (those who touch physical objects or provide non-information based services);
- greater individual and economic and physical independence;
- improved worker access to family life;
- increased opportunities for community and recreational involvement;
- ability to establish an organization which is a confederation of enterprising individuals; and
- ability to create a decentralized and flexible organization, in which the work items themselves become ‘intelligent’ and navigate their own way through the sequence of individual workers best able to ‘do’ them at a given time.