Do you remember the cartoon The Jetsons? Sorry Millennials and Generation Z, but for anyone who was born before 1980 you remember this futuristic cartoon. We don’t have flying cars that fold into briefcases, houses in the sky, or robots with full onboard A.I. We do have video calls that are actually better than the ones in the cartoon. We have video phones that we carry around in our pockets. And much like George just about everyone has a computer at their job.
In retrospect the cartoon got a lot wrong. “His boy Elroy” and “daughter Judy” actually got dropped off at school, where kids today are leveraging the ubiquity of the internet to attend school from home. And who could forget about “Jane his wife” as George handed her a twenty dollar bill, while she opted to take his entire wallet as she descended down to the local mall. I guess the joke is on them for not having enough imagination to know that people in the 21st century don’t go to the mall. Especially now in the middle of the Coronavirus, if you want something you pull your phone out of your pocket and after a few swipes and taps you can have whatever you want delivered to your home. In the case of Amazon or Google you can simply order things with your voice. What a world in which we live.
Finally, George arrives at work. He stands on the moving sidewalk that takes him to his office, and then sits back and props his feet up on his desk. Here again the writers of the cartoon got it wrong. A lot of people don’t have to commute to a physical location in the 21st century. If your job requires a computer, phone, and an internet connection, you can do your job from anywhere. And thanks to Covid-19 we are finding out just how many jobs can be performed from home. Back in the late 90s when Al Gore was running for president, he predicted this evolution would be born out of the Information Superhighway. Today we call this paradigm shift telecommuting.
If you have had the opportunity to telecommute before or after Coronavirus, you have noticed several immediate benefits. You are not driving everyday and with that time that you aren’t stuck in traffic to and from work, you save money on gas as well as wear and tear on your car. In fact most insurance companies have given refunds to customers for their auto insurance. Why not? Everyone is driving less. Your work life balance increases immediately along with your mental health.
Some companies will pay for part or all of your home internet bill. As a matter of fact my wife and I are telecommuting right now and both of our companies are subsidizing our internet cost. Some companies will pay for the cost of you setting up your home office. That can include a printer, desk, chair (which ironically is the most expensive), and the ongoing cost of printer ink and paper. If you can carve out a section of your home and dedicate it to a home office, it can be extremely convenient.
I have had many conversations with people who miss the human contact that telecommuting eliminates. If you work and live in the same place, you are going to see the same small group of people everyday. Hopefully you like the people you live with, but it can be monotonous. That said many people believe that this is temporary, and they anxiously anticipated the return to the days of old. I suspect that they are in for a surprise. Why? Brick and mortar is expensive.
Hartman performed some average calculations of the cost of rent based on industry and their numbers are compelling. I have highlighted the business that can migrate to a telecommute model.
Location cost greatly depends on industry. For example:
0.46 percent: Gambling establishments
1.12 percent: Gas stations
2.09 percent: Electronics and appliance stores
2.66 percent: Educational services
2.82 percent: Finance and insurance companies
3.19 percent: Arts, entertainment and recreation facilities
3.21 percent: Food and beverage shops
3.30 percent: Books, hobby, music, sporting goods stores
3.37 percent: Health and personal care stores
3.46 percent Insurance agents and brokers
3.86 percent: General merchandise stores
5.52 percent: Health care and social assistance organizations
5.81 percent: Food and drink establishments
5.98 percent: Furniture and furnishing stores
7 percent: Hotels, accommodations
7.66 percent: Clothing and accessory shops
LinkedIn has a fascinating article that states that companies on average spend $18,400 per location per employee for a physical home office. If you work for a company of ten people, that might not be a big deal. If your company has hundreds or thousands of employees, you begin to understand why telecommuting is being aggressively adopted.
Location, location, location is no longer the driver of corporate office decisions, especially when a business can save money. Reduction in fixed costs means increased operating profit, and profit is king. In addition according to the same LinkedIn article, a telecommute model removes the restrictions that driving to an office places in the selection of potential job candidates. If your office is in Chicago, you can comfortably hire people within a 30 miles radius. But what if your best candidate lives in Omaha Nebraska? They probably aren’t going to commute to the office everyday. If all they need is a computer, a phone, and an internet connection to do their job they don’t have to.
Schools have the same motivation. The physical buildings and their maintenance is a huge cost that continues to increase. When you look at the dilapidated condition of most schools and consider the cost to upgrade them, allowing students to telecommute will allow school districts to reallocate those funds to the students. In February 2019 American Progress reported that this priority alone will cost a significant amount of money: Reports estimate that bringing all U.S. schools into good overall condition will cost approximately $200 billion. Just fixing the public schools in Detroit that are deemed in urgent need of repair, for example, would cost at least $223 million; it would cost up to $500 million to bring all Detroit public schools to a state of good repair. In Baltimore, it could cost up to $2.8 billion to address the city’s backlog of school maintenance issues.
According to Forbes telecommuting increases productivity. It is estimated that 1.8T dollars are lost due to decreased productivity. This includes everything from the long walk to the office bathroom, rush hour traffic, bad weather, water cooler office gossip, to something as minor as an uncomfortable chair. If two employees don’t get along, they have to be strategically placed, as to minimize disruption to the rest of the work environment.
Telecommuting also decreases attrition. As the cost of onboarding the new employee is up to 33% of the annual salary paid for the position, this is a huge upside. Companies can retain intellectual capital by continuing to employ older employees. Don’t forget the benefits to the environment. Telecommuting means less cars driving which is the number one driver of greenhouse gas emissions. You can do a quick Google search and see before and after pictures of major cities that show the decrease in pollution when the Covid-19 shelter in place orders went live.
Finally, there is no shortage of opportunities that pay well and allow you to telecommute. Here is a quick list of jobs with above average salaries that allow you to telecommute. Here is another list in Forbes of the top 100 companies that are actively hiring for telecommute positions. And these are not all highly skilled engineering or IT positions.
If you are considering exploring this type of opportunity, you really need to be computer and internet literate. You will increase your odds of success by being proficient in Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Don’t be discouraged by reading that. There is a vast selection of free resources to acquire basic or even intermediate skills online.
Leila Gharani has been posting tutorials on YouTube for over four years that will guide you step by step to becoming an intermediate user of Microsoft Excel. In fact if you have a question, you can post it in the comments section under her video and she is very good about responding with answers in real time. MyOnlineTrainingHub is another excellent resource for learning all things Microsoft Excel on YouTube. Did I mention that their tutorials are free?
So if you want a career change, and you want to be involved in this technological revolution taking place all around us, I encourage you to do your research and invest in yourself. Telecommuting is not a fad and it is not going away. I promise you if you start today, you won’t regret it. Good luck.