As the mother of a two, balancing work and family can be challenging at times, which is why working for a company like AT&T, which supports telecommuting, is greatly appreciated. Of course the benefits of telecommuting can be much greater than just helping to balance a sometimes crazy life.  As AT&T’s Business Marketing Sustainability Program Director, I also see the importance of telecommuting because it also can help minimize the environmental impacts associated with getting to and from work.

In my many years with AT&T, I’ve held numerous positions. While supporting the roll-out of the AT&T Global Network, my job required being available at all hours of the day and night. Most days, I would start at 6am or earlier for meetings with Europe, and sometimes on the same day, I could be working with Asia Pacific as late as 11pm.

Fortunately, for the close to five years, while I supported International, I was in a 100% virtual office.  I just had to walk downstairs to the office.  This afforded me the flexibility to support the various time zones, while I balanced work and family. But not only that, it also allowed me to keep my car parked in my garage, saving ~44K miles on my vehicle during these 5 years. This reduced utilization also helped reduce travel related green house gas emissions.

Luckily, it wasn’t just me and the environment that benefited.  AT&T also benefited from my virtual office arrangement. Although, I admit I may have had on my fuzzy slippers and PJ’s for a few early morning calls with Europe, I certainly put in a great number of extra hours working in this virtual arrangement. After all I didn’t have to spend time in traffic commuting, so I used those hours and a great deal more supporting the work activities of the various time zones. It was a win/win situation. While I saved wear and tear on my car and reduced my travel related green house gas emissions, the company benefited from the extra hours of daily productivity. Even today as an occasional telecommuter, it is true that  AT&T, the environment and I all benefit.

“According to a 2010 survey by the National Small Business Association, the amount of employers who encourage or allow telecommuting has jumped to 44% in 2010 from 19% in 2007.”

Many companies are moving towards a more virtual workforce. It can actually be of benefit to employers to support telecommuting: “Telecommuting cuts overhead expenses for companies because they need less office space and supplies. It also cuts down on inter-office socializing and distractions, leading to an increase in productivity.”

It’s taking the work to the people vs. the people to the work.  “At the end of 2010, AT&T counted more than 12,000 approved telecommuters. In addition, the company has provided mobile and remote access technologies to more than 130,000 employees that allow them to work from a variety of locations”

A recent survey of telecommuters even suggests that telecommuting can make employees happier, more loyal and more productive.

Granted, telecommuting isn’t for everyone. Some people need the social environment and the hustle and bustle of a physical building, while others find it hard to break away from working extremely long hours. However, for those employers who support telecommuting, there continues to be greater tools developed to support this trend.  Of course, if you utilize video chat, you may want to forego the fuzzy slippers and PJs, unless the definition of business casual includes them.

What do you think? Would telecommuting work for you or your employer?