Your employees are probably feeling the pinch, and in many workplaces, talk has already turned to winter survival and energy costs if heating oil, natural gas, and electricity are as expensive as it looks like they will be. You’d like to help, but businesses are feeling the pinch, too. Rising energy costs make it more expensive for you to heat your offices, power your equipment, and buy necessities like paper and coffee. Right now, for many businesses, things look, at the very least, a little bleak.
Now’s the time to start thinking about ways you and your employees can help each other through what might be a tough several months (or longer). Here are a few ideas you might consider as you’re thinking about savings.
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If your commute to the office is more than a few miles, chances are you’re watching your gas gauge with increasing anxiety these days. Your employees are, too, and at some point, they’re going to complain about how much it costs for them to come into work. For employees whose functions don’t require them to be in the office at all times, you might consider a part-time telecommuting agreement.
You don’t have to let everyone work at home — although you do need to make sure that you don’t discriminate in offering the option. Give the opportunity to all similarly situated employees, like the entire advertising department, for example. It’s also perfectly fine to enact a work-at-home program for a trial period; you don’t have to commit to making it permanent.
Make sure your employees know there’s no entitlement to a arrangement to telecommute; create performance milestones that employees must meet to be eligible to work at home and to continue doing so once they begin. They will appreciate the flexibility and the opportunity to save a little time and money by avoiding the commute. Your company might reap benefits, too, even though they’ll be small. You’ll be able to use less energy by keeping some lights off, and if your employees have private offices, maybe you’ll be able to turn down a few thermostats as well. You may also benefit from increased productivity since your employees will likely work harder to earn the right to continue to work at home.
You’re getting warmer
Or cooler, depending on the season. When summer settles in, your air conditioning probably cranks nonstop. If your workplace is relatively formal, consider relaxing your dress code a little. Allow women to wear sleeveless shirts and dresses and sandals, and let men wear short-sleeved shirts and lose the ties. They’ll feel a lot cooler — which means you can turn up the thermostat a little.
Try the reverse in cold weather. If your employees keep their blazers on or wear sweaters, you might not need to use as much energy to heat your office. You might also want to take a look at your windows. Do they open? If so, opening them in the summer might be causing the air conditioning to kick in — especially if it’s humid outside. And in winter, if you don’t put storm windows in place, you’ll be losing hot air to the outdoors. Look at your building as you would your home, and weatherize it to save energy and money.
Travel and gas prices
The IRS federal mileage rate for reimbursement is more than 58 cents a mile now, which means that if you pay your employees for mileage when they travel, you’re taking a beating. Consider ways to use your in-office technology to cut back on travel expenses. Hold meetings by conference call when you can. If visuals are needed, consider sending written materials or a PowerPoint presentation in advance of the phone conference or even investing in video-conferencing equipment, if it’s something you will use often enough for it to be cost-effective.
In difficult economic times, your employees know that cuts might be necessary. They’d rather see the air conditioning bill cut than someone lose his job, even if it means they’re a little bit warmer than they’d like to be. If you can find ways to allow them to save (e.g., by limiting their driving to and from work), they’ll appreciate it. As a result, you may find your savings efforts paying off in more ways than one!