Instead of fighting thirty miles of traffic driving downtown, some people commute from their bed to the computer room. Instead of meeting up at a regular office cubicle to work, these employees work from any place in the world with an Internet connection.
The telecommute is one exciting way to reduce your environmental impact by avoiding driving to work. If you sell a digital product or service by telecommuting, you also avoid producing waste. By switching from a conventional job to working online, you could save $2000 in gasoline and $500 in insurance premiums each year (1). In fact, if you go completely car-free, you could save over a million dollars in your lifetime. That’s not bad for the luxury of getting to work anywhere you want, and often anytime you want.
There are telecommuting jobs available for all sorts of skills. You could be a virtual assistant, software developer, graphics artist, accountant, banker, or a writer. Hsinya has spent the last few weeks working as an online tutor. You could work in the health sector if you have a nursing or medical degree. Telecommuting allows companies like Canonical, 37Signals, and MySQL to hire employees from all over the globe. Don’t think that telecommuting is only for small, niche companies: larger companies such as Price Waterhouse Coopers, Cisco, and Intel have many employees that regularly telecommute (2).
Hsinya and I are really excited about working online because it gives us the freedom to explore possibilities outside of the standard 9-to-5 job. It gives us location independence, the freedom to work anywhere in the world. In December, we’re going to visit our family in Taiwan. Most travelers can only afford to take short vacations during holiday seasons due to work constraints. However, because telecommuting offers location independence, we could afford to spend 3 months visiting relatives and leisurely touring the country. Instead of rushing back home on an expensive flight in early January, we booked a cheaper return ticket in late February (I saved about $200 per person, for a total savings of $400). When we return, we have the option of choosing any city in the world to live in.
If you want to start your own business, consider an online technology business. All you need is a laptop, a power outlet, and internet access. There are plenty of digital products you can sell online, including e-books, artwork, software, and consulting services. If you have absolutely no technical skills and no experience as an entrepreneur, there are plenty of online tutorials, books, and websites to help you get started (3). I was inspired a friend who launched his own iPhone business, GreenGar Studios. Right now, I’m thinking about working on software that focuses on Greenimalist values.
You also save money by reducing work-related expenses when you telecommute. Conventional jobs typically force you to drive to work, which can cost you $5,000 a year. A 40+ hour work-week might force you to eat out all the time, costing you another $5,000 each year. If you’re a parent, working online can save you on thousands of dollars on babysitting. Factor these costs into your income, and then evaluate your conventional job to its telecommuting alternative.
In a historical context, the idea of working from home isn’t novel. For millennia, many people worked close to their home on nearby farms or in local trades. From a historical perspective, a daily thirty-mile commute to the office is a total anomaly, made possible only by expensive, gas-guzzling, smog-polluting cars. As society begins to rediscover the benefits of working from home, telecommuting will take us full-circle. The ten second commute–the confluence between technology and environment–is as age-old as history itself.
Have you ever considered telecommuting?
- The average car in America gets about 22.4 mpg. If you drive 30 miles to work one-way, then you drive 60 miles per day. If you work 5 days per week, 50 weeks per year, then you use 670 gallons of gasoline per year. At a price of $3/gallon, that’s about $2010 per year in gasoline. If you cut back on driving, you will pay less for insurance premiums because there’s less chance of you getting into an auto accident when you telecommute.
- Check out the top telecommuting companies: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/2010/benefits/telecommuting.html
- Borrow these books from your local library or buy them on Amazon: Rework, Escape From Cubicle Nation, Crush It!, The Wealthy Freelancer, Undress for Success.