Cisco teleworkers are proud and productive

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Cisco has released the findings of a study of 2000 teleworking employees - it seems they are a happy bunch, more productive and helping the technology giant save a whole pile of cash. The consulting arm, Cisco Internet Business Services Group, reckons it has annual savings of $277 million in productivity by allowing employees to telecommute and telework. Of course, being the technology company behind telepresence, Webex and series of remote connectivity solutions, eating your own dogfood is a must. But these figures are none the less very interesting: 
 
For starters, the survey reports that teleworkers are a happy and productive bunch of souls:
 
  • 69% surveyed cited higher productivity when working remote, 
  • 75% said the timeliness of their work improved
  • 67% of survey respondents said their overall work quality improved when telecommuting.
  • 83% of employees said their ability to communicate and collaborate with co-workers was the same as, if not better than, it was when working on-site.
  • 80% cited an improved quality of life 
 
So the majority of teleworkers - which telework on average two days a week - enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home. They reckon that 60% of the time that they saved on travel is now spent on work (does that mean they do the same work but in less time, or more work?), and 40% is on their personal life. The general feelings of happiness may also be in part because just 40% work in the same city as their managers.
 
For Cisco there's quite considerable environmental and economic benefits reaped from their teleworkers. Cisco estimates that in 2008, teleworkers prevented approximately 47,320 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the environment due to avoided travel. Round-trip commutes varied from region to region, with North American employees reporting 30-mile commutes, Europeans reporting 46-mile commutes and Asia Pac employees just 14 miles. 
 
There's a very negative article in The Guardian which dismisses technology companies' self-published reports of their environmental activities. It says companies tend not to assess the rebound costs of teleworking, such as the use of telepresence which requires vast amounts of data. Telepresence, asks the Guardian, must surely be contributing to the rising levels of e-missions? 
 
What this article doesn't recognise is that as computer processing power increases, and that is the same for routers, energy requirements do not increase at the same pace. Emissions from digital equipment are indeed rising, but it's surely not at rate to counter the positive benefits for avoiding travel. The increase in size of the IT carbon footprint will be offset by the positive benefits IT can have in reducing building, travel and manufacturing emissions. So if a company is proud that its technology can improve employee productivity and happiness while reducing the environmental impact of its business activities, surely it's good to stand on a pedestal? 
 
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.