Image credit: Marjukka Grover (used with permission)
Lloyd may have been unimpressed with the idea that telecommuting raises carbon emissions, and I've done my own part to promote working from home by creating a list of 5 technologies that can help make telecommuting easy and green. Nevertheless, there is one aspect of telecommuting that is worth casting a skeptical green eye over—if you can work from home, really, you can work from anywhere. When this post is published, I will be kicking back in England visiting family and friends. But I'll have my laptop with me and will be checking in on work from time to time. Besides the obvious challenge that being constantly online means for a Slow Business approach to work, it also has the potential to increase carbon emissions. After all, while telecommuting may reduce extreme commuters and road zombies, anecdotal evidence would suggest that it also empowers people to take trips they wouldn't otherwise have time for—working from the beach, the mountains, or even abroad. Given the massive CO2 emissions of aviation, it doesn't take a lot of flights to wipe out the savings from not driving to work.
I've been unable to find any hard figures on how much telecommuting encourages vacations and long-distance travel, but search "telecommuting abroad". and you'll get a whole host of articles extolling the virtues of living and working abroad as a telecommuting traveler. It's not just about foreign vacations either. I've often noticed that my wife and I are much freer to take a long weekend trip to the mountains now that I can work from the car, or check in on emails once we arrive.
Heaven knows I am not arguing against telecommuting. We TreeHuggers get accused of being killjoys way too often already—the last thing I want to do is advocate a return to the cubicle. But the next time I write something about the green benefits of working from home, someone should check where I wrote it from.