Want to Prevent Another Gulf Oil Spill? Telecommute!

The best way to eliminate oil spills is to cut oil use, and one important way to do that is to work from home.

June 23, 2010

With a little planning, this could be your new office.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—So you want to do something about the catastrophic Gulf oil spill but don't know how to help? Tempted as you may be to boycott BP stations, those boycotts don't help, say a growing number of environmentalists and nonprofits, including representatives from Greenpeace. Very few, if any, BP gas stations are actually owned by BP. They're franchises whose owners contract to receive oil from oil companies, and they make most of their profits from convenience-store sales and services, not gasoline.


If you really want to ease the country's dependence on oil—and therefore its vulnerability to oil spills—say most environmental groups, use less oil. That may seem an impossible task, considering that oil is used in everything from chewing gum to carpets to, ironically, the Dawn dish liquid being used to clean the oil off of pelicans and turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. But one change that will have a significant impact on your oil use is to try telecommuting. It will reduce your gasoline use, and it may also gain you a better work-life balance. Plus, it gets you out of road-rage-inducing traffic, which triples your heart attack risk. Assuming your employers are already on board with the idea (if not, here are a few ways to convince them that working from home benefits everybody), you may have other concerns about working from home.

Here are a few ways to make telecommuting easier, effective, and enjoyable:

• Set up your workspace. Make sure you have a designated spot in your home that will serve as a functional home office. If indoor space is at a premium, consider a backyard "work shed" similar to the garden offices that are so popular in England. A corner office surely can't beat a view of your backyard garden in bloom! As for the supplies you'll need to make your workspace work, the Clean Air Campaign has published a few checklists on its website so your home office will be equipped with the tools you need to function. These checklists also offer tips on speaking with HR and IT personnel at your company so they can better assist you with working from home.

• Silence any distractions. Crying kids and barking dogs do not a professional work atmosphere make. Treat your home office just as you would a regular office and line up child or pet care, if needed (or continue the care you were using when commuting). Make sure your spouse and other people living with you know your work hours and know not to disturb you during those times. Share these details with your employers when you pitch them your telecommuting plan, to send the message that you're committed to your work, whether you're doing it at home or at the office.

• Communicate. In order to keep your boss informed of your progress (and convinced you aren't spending all day walking your dog or having lunch with your neighbors), send him or her a list of tasks accomplished either every day or every week, depending on his or her preference. Include access to your company's internal instant-messaging software in your home setup so you can send quick updates if necessary, or install some other Internet chat software that allows you to communicate more quickly and easily.

• Find like-minded telecommuters. If the idea of spending all day at home alone strikes you as dull and lonely, find other telecommuters near you who would be interested in sharing a workspace. As interest in telecommuting grows, more opportunities for "co-working" have developed, in which multiple telecommuters or self-employed share an office space closer to their homes than their offices. It cuts down on commuting time and gives you exposure to other businesses and industries, which may help you in professional networking. There are a few Internet sites that will help you find co-working spaces in your area.

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