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Gas Prices and The Impact On American Workplaces

Without question, the hike in gas prices is taking its toll on the budgets of American families, hampering participation in community weekend activities, volunteerism, and most...

Written By: Crystal O'Brien, MMC, Inc.
Without question, the hike in gas prices is taking its toll on the budgets of American families, hampering participation in community weekend activities, volunteerism, and most certainly on workers' ability to commute to and from work. On average, U.S. commuters travel some 60 miles roundtrip to and from work. (Sperling's BestPlaces.com) With gas prices averaging close to $4.00 a gallon around the country, the likelihood that telecommuting is presenting itself as a workable solution for a number of employees.

In 2006, the International Telework Association and Council estimated that some 26 million Americans work from home at least one day every month, and another 22 million do part of their jobs from home a minimum of once a week. Most certainly, the number of telecommuters in the U.S. is increasing -- especially with the rising costs of gasoline in a fuel-dependent economy.

Why Not Offer Telecommuting?

Before your organization delves into offering telecommuting as a solution, consider the following. One issue employer and employee should consider is whether the work that needs to be performed can be done from home? Home environment, organization, accessibility, and self-discipline can be deal breakers for making telecommuting a viable option. No employee should want to be placed in a losing situation for being able to perform his or her assigned tasks to the best of their ability and if the home environment is not conducive to working alone, telecommuting is not a realistic option.

Another consideration is does the employee have demonstrated skills to connect with clients/customers, or co-workers while not working in a formal office setting? How will the prospective telecommuter respond to needs for assuring that he or she is available to provide a service or support others if they cannot be contacted through multiple mediums such as cell phone, pager, blackberry, or e-mail? Can the employer afford to provide the telecommuter with these different resources? And how will the telecommuter perform when being contacted through multiple means and without being able to regularly interact with others?

Many underestimate the different set of challenges placed on telecommuters and if your organization has not researched the in's and out's of telecommuting, you should not plunge into this option without creating a set of expectations and policies prior to authorizing telecommuting. Working with a human resources consultant at MMC prior to extending telecommuting as an alternative to commuting into the office each day is a great way to manage telecommuting options

Crystal M. O’Brien, Esq. serves as MMC’s Employment Law Manager/Corporate Counsel. Ms. O’Brien’s practice experiences focus on providing labor and employment law counseling advice to MMC’s 400 clients. She also mediates private disputes for the Los Angeles County Superior Courts as well as represents employers in litigated labor and employment law matters.

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