Hugged your screen lately?

Hugged your screen lately?

Businesses can be forgiven for focusing more on saving costs than on saving the planet. But CLINT CRONJÉ says recent developments suggest that companies can save the planet and the bottom line.

The developments in question are teleworking and increased employment of skilled people who work from home and connect to their offices via smart phones, laptops, desktop computers, video conferencing (VC) and telepresence solutions.

So you don’t have to hug bunnies to make environmental progress. Hug your computer and video screens instead. It’s a practical alternative with measurable benefits.

Telework has special relevance in South Africa; not because we are noted environmentalists, but because we face growing traffic congestion, steep road tolls and sky-high petrol prices.

Faced with these realities, business needs a smart response and teleworking qualifies as just that. Reductions in a company’s carbon footprint are a bonus. Many executives now agree the business case for teleworking is compelling, ensuring growing deployment of teleworking tools like VC.

US researchers say enterprises will in 2015 spend US$5 billion on VC and telepresence, advanced video and audio that create the illusion you are up close and personal when colleagues or clients might be half a world away. Conference room systems are a big growth area but more intimate Skype-based solutions on the desktop are increasingly adopted, too.

Researchers say worldwide revenue for VC technologies grew 18% last year, hitting
US$2,2 billion. Growth into and out of recession suggests significant business efficiencies accrue.

Cash-strapped governments are also exploring the benefits of teleworking. In the US, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to establish telework policies and designate a managing officer to drive telework programmes.

This is good news for workers, as federal studies show telework employees enjoy more job satisfaction than office-bound peers. Teleworkers are also more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work and more likely to remain loyal rather than job-hop.

The 2010 World Cup created potential for road and air-traffic dislocation. Many local companies reacted by opting for VC-driven virtual meetings rather than real ones. Corporate travel savings were significant, leading to a mini-boom for VC suppliers.

Companies engaged in carbon-footprint measurement and reduction were especially eager adopters of the technology. This is hardly surprising. To give just one statistic, 1,08 tons of carbon is dumped on a Johannesburg-Cape Town return flight. Non-environmental benefits include the elimination of time wasted travelling to and from airports, waiting time and non-productive cabin time.

The daily town-and-around commute by countless office workers has even bigger choking effects on the atmosphere. Cost-sensitive workers and companies feel pretty choked, too.

Local firms involved in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) are especially close to the issue. The report “The Telepresence Revolution” estimates that by 2020 application of telepresence technology by US and UK business could cut CO² emissions by nearly 5,5 million metric tons and secure financial benefits of nearly US$19 billion.

So, money really is going up in smoke. And that’s very sad.




Clint Cronjé is managing director of Imago Communications South Africa, a leading provider of VC and telepresence solutions.

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