A Happy Way to Offset Gas Prices

August 1st, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

With fuel costs increasing, telecommuting may save more than money.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

With news breaking a few weeks ago that gasoline prices could hit $5 per gallon within the year, perhaps it’s time to reassess the effort (and dollars) your own daily commute demands.

As it turns out, working from home might be the best solution for your wallet and your happiness. A recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Kathryn Fonner and Michael Roloff related that workers who telecommute at least three days a week are the happiest.

In this study, which appeared in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Communication Research, the main benefit telecommuters reported was a “decreased work-life conflict” that a flexible work arrangement allows. The idea that they would feel alienated from workplace communication – which the researchers said is often cited as telecommuting’s biggest disadvantage – wasn’t really an issue for these respondents. Other major benefits linked to high job satisfaction included being shielded from office politics, interruptions, constant meetings and information overload.

Of course, if your office requires your presence five days a week, the study encourages managers to do things like limit the number of meetings and mass emails, designate times and spaces where employees can work uninterrupted, and encourage employees to disconnect from workplace communication at the end of the day.

But if you plan to make a case for telecommuting, the American Electronics Association would like you to know that you have the environment on your side of the negotiation. As much as 1.35 billion gallons of gas could be saved annually if every U.S. worker who was able worked from home 1.6 days a week. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that this would account for a 26 billion pound reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. (Imagine being able to make that claim on your company’s next corporate social responsibility report!)

Need further ammunition? Check out the Planet Green Guide to Working from Home, with helpful information regarding the benefits of working at home, setting up a home office and a thorough look at whether telecommuting actually is greener.

But as with every work style, telecommuting is a personal choice. Do you have compelling reasons for office work over telecommuting – or vice versa? Share them here.

(A portion of this story was previously published as “Are Telecommuters Happier?” on The Responsibility Project on 1/25/11)