Between the shaky but continuing economic recovery and the political unrest burning through the Middle East, 2011 has seen oil prices continue to rise. And despite the recent dip due to the tragedy in Japan, they’re likely to continue to go up according to many experts. It’s obvious that raising the cost of commuting increases the appeal of web working, but have we already seen an increase in home-based work?
Davinci Virtual, a U.K. provider of “virtual office services,” for one, says yes, reporting an increase in demand for its services it attributes to the spike in fuel costs. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in car-centric Atlanta, government researchers found a 75 percent jump in the number of telecommuters (though they still account for only seven percent of workers). That’s good news when it comes to reducing carbon emissions due to commuting, too.
But there’s still plenty of possible telecommuters with jobs that are compatible with remote working who have yet to take up the option. The Mobility Choice Coalition says that out of a potential 9.6 million workers already able and permitted to telecommute, only 5.2 million are currently logging on from a distance two or more days a week. What’s stopping the other 4.4 million? The MCC suggests, “individual firms or managers may tacitly discourage telecommuting even where it is permitted by policy.”
Are you one of these reluctant managers, tempted by the possibilities of virtual teams but still harboring doubts? Perhaps rising oil prices could be the final factor to push you to adopt web working. After all, The Oil Trap a project of Lisa Margonelli, the director of the Energy Policy Initiative at New America Foundation, claims:
The average family of four making $50,000 a year spends nearly $8000 a year on their cars, maintenance, and fuel combined–more than they pay for taxes or medical care.
Eliminate some or all of that cost and that’s a big chunk of change you can use to attract the best talent that won’t come out of your pocket. At a price of $3.50 per gallon, Americans will spend $41 billion on gasoline this March. What else could we be doing with some of that money if more of us were web workers?