UCSF Sustainability Stories

Ana Toepel, Green Impact, September 2019

Five Tips for Successful Telecommuting

Here in the Bay Area many people work and live in different cities and spend hours commuting to and from work each day. For some of them, especially working parents, it would be ideal to have this time to spend on personal tasks and responsibilities instead of on commuting and to create a better work-life balance. Telecommuting, a growing trend in workplaces across the country, is one flexible work option that makes this possible.

UCSF’s Human Resources defines telecommuting as “a voluntary work arrangement in which an eligible employee with approval works one or more days each work week from home instead of commuting to a work place.” Telecommuting can also be used occasionally to meet a project’s needs, address environmental impact issues, or deal with special circumstances (e.g., extreme weather events, traffic hazards, office construction, and public transit problems). It can also be a way to provide accommodations for permanently or temporarily disabled employees.

Telecommuting Brings Multiple Benefits

According to the 1 Million for Work Flexibility campaign, there are many benefits of telecommuting for both employers and employees—and for the environment. A June article in Lifewire also describes its multiple benefits and claims it makes “good business sense.” Generally, workers who telecommute are happier and more productive, and employers save money and decrease their environmental impact. Results from numerous studies compiled by Global Workplace Analytics show an average increase in productivity of 35-40% in telecommuters compared to office colleagues across a range of companies. According to The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, a study of more than 19,000 employees at nine different companies showed that stress and burnout were lower among workers who had workplace flexibility.

Telecommuting can also be a strategy for addressing climate change and reducing waste. Having fewer commuters typically means fewer cars on the road; eliminating or cutting back on daily commutes reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. According to a 2017 study conducted by Flex Jobs and Global Workplace Analytics, 3.9 million workers who worked from home at least part-time at that time avoided three million tons of greenhouse gases—and it would take the planting of 91 million trees to offset the same amount of emissions. Waste is also reduced with less people using energy, office equipment, and office supplies.

Five Tips for Successful Telecommuting

Are you considering implementing a telecommuting option for your department, or are you interested in becoming a telecommuter? The following are some tips and resources to help ensure your success.

1. Use the UCSF Telecommuting Agreement. The telecommuting agreement template is a great resource for creating an arrangement for working from home with your supervisor.

2. Collaborate with UCSF Box Sync and Zoom. UCSF Box Sync is a cloud-hosted platform, like DropBox, that allows users to easily store and share documents, photos, research materials, and other files for collaboration. Box Sync can be downloaded here. Box Drive will eventually replace Box Sync once it has feature parity, but until then, please use Box Sync instead. UCSF also offers guidelines and resources for using Zoom, an online meeting tool; check out the excellent Zoom Guides by the School of Medicine.

3. Check Out the Equipment Reuse Program. The Office of Sustainability at UCSF currently runs an Equipment Reuse Program allowing employees to claim secondhand, working electronics that would otherwise be discarded. It’s an effort to salvage working items that get discarded at the E-waste Drop Off events (hosted by the Recycling Team) and distribute them to departments that can use them. You can learn more from the Equipment Reuse Agreement.
The goals of this program are to:

  • Reuse and reduce waste;
  • Help UCSF departments save money by not needing to buy new office equipment;
  • Promote telecommuting by enabling employees to get free equipment to set up their home offices.

  • A recent survey showed that past participants:

  • Were able to work more efficiently with the extra monitor(s);
  • Significantly improved their work-life balance;
  • Were grateful to save money for their departments; and
  • Increased their teleworking frequency by 1-2 days per week (the majority of those who took a monitor for home use).

  • 4.  Communicate, Communicate. Managers and telecommuters should have regular check-ins and have meetings over videoconference whenever possible. Keep a shared agenda open so both parties can add items as they surface. Set clear expectations for communication (what, how, when, etc.).

    5.  Stay Connected. Telecommuters should attend team meetings virtually to stay connected with other employees, and everyone should meet face-to-face occasionally to create cohesion. Team building events can provide a social component and allow everyone to benefit from time spent together.

    UCSF Telecommuting Guidelines
    UCSF Telecommuting Agreement template
    The Thriving Small Business: “7 Tips for Managing Remote Workers”
    Robert Half: “6 Keys for Creating Strong Telecommuting Programs”
    Quartz at Work: “A Guide for People who Work from Home”