How Telecommuting Can Save You Money, Cure Baldness, and Help Save The World

The slow adoption of telecommuting in the corporate world is a bit disappointing.

Surprisingly, the U.S. federal government, an institution usually not on the cutting edge of most technological advances, appears to have adopted telecommuting at a greater rate than the corporate world.

With about 2.4 million federal civilian employees, 168 thousand (or about 6%) are telecommuting two or more times a week. That’s almost 3% more than the corporate telecommuting workforce. Sadly, of the 50 million jobs that could potentially be teleworking positions, only 2.9 million (3%) are actually telecommuting.

Pondering the benefits of telecommuting is nothing new. What hasn’t thoroughly been explored is the real dollar savings per employee by simply teleworking.

This week, I go into a simple mathematical exercise to highlight the potential savings and collateral benefits of simply moving 50 million jobs to the tethered home office.

Saving Money & Time

Commuter Nightmare

The average commuter could save $1800 a year by telecommuting

We’ll need to set up some constants for our numbers to make sense. For example, we’ll assume all our potential teleworkers have a 50 work week year, with 8 holidays and two weeks of non-commuting vacation, totaling 242 commuting work days a year.

The average cost of gas in 2012 was $3.52. The average car was able to meet 23.4 MPG in 2012.  Of the 50 million potential teleworkers, about 75% of them drive alone (1 car) and the rest carpool or take mass transits.

Overall, the average distance commuted in 2012 was about 43 miles to and from work, but about 3 million people commuted 100 miles or more each day. Taking those super commuters into account (and for easier math) we’ll say the overall average commute length to work is a one to one correlation to MPG at 23.4 miles one way and therefore 46.8 miles to and from work. Now we can say that the average commuter in 2012 used two gallons of gas and spent $7.04 a day getting to and from work.

Gasoline Price Per Gallon Could Be Reduced

The U.S. used 3.19 billion barrels  (134 billion gallons) of gasoline in 2012. The average commuter burned 484 gallons a year simply commuting. That’s 18.2 billion gallons (37.5 million commuters x 484 gallons) among single-occupant commuter cars. A 13.6% reduction in gasoline usage each year could occur with those drivers off the road each work day.

Less demand usually means lower costs per gallon.

You Can Save Over $1800 Per Year

Taking into account other average costs, such as oil and tires, the average sedan will cost about 17.3 cents per mile, or for the commute to and from work each day, about $7.44. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but let’s add it up over the course of the 5 day work week: $37.20, or the work month: $148.80, or the work year: $1800.48 (242 x $7.44). That’s right, the average commuter spends about $1800 of their own money each year, just commuting to and from work.

Tired Commuter

Teleworkers gain 8 days of productivity by simply not driving to work

Gain 8 Days Of Productivity

But what is the value of a dollar compared to the value of one’s time? The average commute time in 2012 was 25.1 minutes one way. That’s 50.2 minutes a day. An hour doesn’t seem like a lot, but let’s add it up over the course of the 5 day work week: 4.18 hours, or the work month: 16.72 hours, or the work year: 202.5 hours (242 x 50.2 min). That’s 202 hours, or 8.42 days of your life wasted sitting in a car, in traffic, listening to a radio.

Thousands More Saved Working From Home

Even more savings can occur when you factor in lunches. The average American spends about $3000 a year on lunches. That’s about $12.40 a day ($3000 / 242). I would argue that working from home, a person would be more inclined to eat lunch within the home. A conservative estimate would be cutting the lunch costs in half, so about $1500 a year saved in lunch costs.

Where else could money be saved?

Wear a suit to work? Not when working from home. The average dry-cleaning costs vary from $600-$1000 a year.

Have Kids? Teleworking allows you to keep an eye on them in the home. The average spent on childcare services per year is a whopping $11,666 a year!

As you can see, simply by teleworking each week, the average person can save thousands of dollars a year and 202.5 hours of time that could be used for personal or work related tasks.

Simply by removing the daily commute, your stress can be reduced

Simply by removing the daily commute, your stress can be reduced

Curing Baldness

It’s a fact that stress causes higher levels of cortisol which of course has been found in studies to cause hair loss.

There’s a lot of stress had throughout the day and each level of stress is different between people but it’s safe to say that a daily commute is one of the most stressful events throughout the day.

It’s easy to see how 202.5 hours of cortisol-boosting commute time each a year will do a number on your follicles  let alone weight and emotional well-being. One can deduce that the teleworker can maintain a lower stress level throughout the work day by simply removing the drive to work from their daily routine.

So it might be a far stretch to say telecommuting can cure baldness, but in a round about way it can certainly help you keep the hairs you do have left.

An average commuter produces 4.76 tons of CO2 per year

An average commuter produces 4.76 tons of CO2 per year

Helping To Save The World

By now you might be wondering how in the heck can teleworkers save the world simply by sitting at home.

When you think about it, the obvious answer would be the savings in automobile emissions which is where I’m going with this, but also we should note that telecommuters indirectly help the world by reducing road congestion, which  reduces automobile accidents, and thus indirectly saves lives.

However, for the purpose of simplicity we’ll focus on the environmental gains from having a telecommuting workforce.

U.S. CO2 Emissions Significantly Reduced

The average car pumps out about 379 grams (.84 pounds) of CO2 per mile. That’s 39.3 pounds of CO2 per daily commute. That means the average commuter pumps out about 9,511 pounds (4.76 tons) of CO2 per year just commuting to and from the office.

Going back to our previous number of 75% of the 50 million potential teleworkers who are single car commuters, we can assume there are 37.5 million cars on the road pumping out a grand total of 178.3 million tons of carbon-dioxide daily or 65.9 billion tons of CO2 each year. This is about 13% of the 1,340 tons the U.S. CO2 produced by petroleum byproducts in 2012.

That’s right, by merely having 75% of potential teleworkers (37.5 million) telecommuting, we could reduce annual petroleum-based CO2 emissions by 13%.

So What’s The Catch

It really comes down to corporate America getting in gear and making the investment to build a teleworking environment and culture within their organization. Employees need to shed the stigmas about what they think they know about telecommuting and start really thinking about whether the need to speak face-to-face with a co-worker is worth the potential savings.

I believe that if the calculated numbers presented in this article are offered into the overall argument for a business offering their employees teleworking or an employee considering teleworking, it makes complete sense to lean toward a telecommuting work week.

Coming up next I’ll be writing a follow-up to this article debunking the commonly perceived cons of telecommuting.

Additional Resources:

Federal Employee Count

Federal Telework Resources

Tax Issues

Teleworking Trends

Mobile Work Force Count

Author’s Experience: Every now and then the topic of telecommuting comes up among my peers in part because I spent a little over two years telecommuting for a company full of managers that generally frowned upon the practice.  Because of this I generally consider myself a part of a small group of experienced remote teleworkers who know the do’s and don’ts of telecommuting.  I lend my opinion to those who are considering it or work for a company considering offering it.

About the Author

Rob is an avid blogger and concerned citizen of the United States. Aside writing for The Daily Slack, Rob enjoys composing music, wrenching on his collection of fast cars, hiking, cooking, shooting, and studying the art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

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