Case Study: BT

Through a better use of technology, BT has managed to reduce travel and therefore transport emissions, increase productivity, and save space and energy in the office.

Encouraging flexible working and staggered commuting times, together with the ability to work from home and an increased take-up of online shopping, could make a major contribution to an issue which the CBI estimates costs the UK £20bn a year.

Barry Fogarty, a strategy manager in BT Wholesale says: “We suffer from the worst congestion in Europe. And it’s creating huge social and economic problems. What’s more we aren’t going to be able to build ourselves out of this crisis – despite welcome Government investment in infrastructure. We need to come up with more creative solutions. And BT and our partners are suggesting that if we were all to replace just one in ten of our journeys by car with, for example, shopping online or working from home, the net effect on the congestion problem would be significant.”

A recent report by BT, the CBI and the RAC Foundation shows that at the moment, of the distance we travel by car and taxi (81 per cent of the total distance driven) almost three-fifths can be accounted for by a mixture of commuting (25 per cent), business travel (15 per cent), shopping (12 per cent) and personal business (seven per cent).

A ten per cent reduction in these areas – that is six per cent of the total distance travelled – would save 14.5 billion miles a year. This equates to about 17 million cars cancelling their trips from Land’s End to John O’Groats or about three years’ growth in car and taxi traffic at today’s rates.

BT has over 100,000 employees and began implementing teleworking in 1990 and now probably has the largest number of teleworkers of any UK organisation. Around 6,000 of these staff (who form only a proportion of the total number of teleworkers) take part in a “Workabout” scheme that provides equipment and other support to teleworkers, particularly those who are giving up a permanent BT office space to move to a home-based/mobile working pattern.

The experience of the Workabout scheme, which is outlined in a report by Bradford University on Sustainable Teleworking, shows that mobile working actually provides a better work/life balance and quality of life:

  • 78 per cent of staff say they are more productive – generally estimated at 10-20 per cent more productive
  • 22 per cent said they had worked when otherwise they would have felt too ill to travel in for a whole days’ work
  • BT say they have made £100 million per year space savings: teleworking staff are expected to give up having a permanent desk, and use touch-down areas when at the office.

    Travel reduction is also significant, with a reduction of car commuting of an average 178 miles per week per teleworker, 220 miles per week for rail commuters.

    Another interesting feature concerns time budgets:

  • 69 per cent said their working time had increased
  • 87 per cent said that they had more time for their family
  • 6 per cent said they had more time for community activities

    These responses indicate that although people say they are putting in more hours, being based at home and avoiding the commute also allows them to have a more fulfilling non-work life as well as minimising their and BT’s environmental footprint.


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