On average, UK citizens spend an hour a day commuting to and from work. Over and above the actual time involved, there is also a significant number of other downsides: the high cost of public transport, escalating fuel costs, traffic jams, bad weather, packed commuter trains, personal risks related to late night commuting (visibility and safety), transport delays and cancellations, leaves on the line… I could go on.
You may have assumed that I don’t like commuting. And you’d be right - I don’t! But it’s not my dislike of commuting that that’s important or relevant during National Commute Week, it’s how companies can support Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals by implementing flexible – and smarter – ways of working that also happen not to involve commuting.
"People, planet and profit", also known as the ‘triple bottom line’, is a term used to describe CSR which was coined by John Elkington in 1994, and I’d like to explore briefly the relevance of those terms in the context of the daily commute.
An ONS* study into commuting and personal wellbeing found that each minute added to a commute affects anxiety, happiness and general wellbeing. Commuters are more likely to be anxious, dissatisfied and have the sense that their daily activities lack meaning than those who don’t have to travel to work even if they are paid more.
Sensée employs c. 800 individuals that work entirely from home. Now, I know that homeworking is not for everybody - in fact, our recruitment processes have been finely honed to ensure that we recruit people who will be good and happy homeworkers – but those who do it stand to gain. Our own research**, conducted in May 2016, revealed that:
- 70% of respondents think that the biggest benefit of working from home is the money saved on not having to commute to and from work
- 72% of respondents have noticed a positive difference in their work life balance since becoming a home worker
- 78% of respondents said that since they have been working from home, they are happier overall
Last but not least, not commuting allows individuals who cannot (or find it difficult to) work in a traditional office environment - people with mental or physical disabilities, carers, single parents, the elderly, and those who live in rural and/or deprived communities – to access rewarding careers. As a result, Sensée employs high numbers of people meeting one or more of these criteria and I am incredibly proud that ours is one of the most diverse workforces in the UK.
Last week, The Treaty of Paris came into effect. Signed in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C, and although, the measures agreed are not enough to achieve this target, there is agreement to continue to work together to reduce emissions.
Sensée has calculated that employing call centre agents to work from home and therefore who do not have to commute, saves just under 7 tons of CO2 per employee. As an employer of 800 people, that totals c. 5.56 megatons, and if you extrapolate that to the whole UK’s contact centre industry (estimated to be 1M people), the overall potential for industry CO2 savings rises to 6,953 megatons per year – about twice the annual output of a typical coal fuelled power station in the US***.
According to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, at the end of 2015, there were 1.3 million employing businesses in the UK. Now just imagine the impact on emissions if all of those companies encouraged some or all of their employees to commute less.
Food for thought.
Homeworking allows organisations to tap into a limitless talent pool because there are no geographic boundaries. Accessing the best very best people for the job inevitably drives improved quality: better individual performance leading to better business outcomes.
We witness this every day in our own environment. Our workforce typically outperforms other outsourcers and our clients’ own in-house teams when we compare key performance indicators.
Another interesting consideration is how employees choose to use the time saved by not commuting. Interestingly, 38% of our survey’s respondents said that they use the time saved by not having to commute to work more hours. Above and beyond being happier, 77% stated that working from home enables them to achieve more in their day, including caring for family members, exercising more and pursuing further education. And we all know that happier employees with a better work life balance perform better…
In summary then, if organisations were to acknowledge that not all employees need to be in the office every day, they would undoubtedly profit from attracting higher calibre workers, having a happier workforce, and supporting diversity and environmental CSR targets. Equally importantly, these facets combine to deliver enhanced business performance which positively impacts the bottom line.
About Steve Mosser
Steve founded Sensée, today the UK’s leading homeworking outsourcer, in 2004. Known across the industry as ‘Mr. Homeworking’ (and truth be told a bit of a tech ‘geek’), Steve spent his early career pioneering homeworking best practice and enabling technologies in the United States. Passionate about diversity in the workplace and creating rewarding careers entirely based on merit, Steve enjoys keeping fit, traveling, spending time with friends, and going to the theatre and concerts.
Sensée unlocks significant benefits by transforming the way companies work. Our multi-channel customer management services, delivered by highly skilled home agents, give our clients unprecedented agility to respond to rapidly changing market conditions, significant operational cost reductions and exceptionally high levels of customer satisfaction. The leading homeworking outsourcer, Sensée employs c. 800 home agents from across the UK to serve a prestigious, international client base that includes Argos, Aviva, Eurostar, PhotoBox, and RAC.
*Office for National Statistics, 2014
** Sensée ‘Homeworking Happiness’ survey, May 2016
*** EIA Data (2 Typical plant assumptions: Capacity=600 MW; Capacity Factor=69%; Heat Rate=10,415; CO2 Emissions Rate=206 pounds of CO2/Million Btu)