In the past 20 years, there has been a major shift in the way work is done. With the rise of the knowledge-based economy, rapid advances in technology and concern over carbon footprints, the traditional workplace model has grown obsolete.

The actual necessity to physically change location in order to routinely sit down in front of a computer and perform simulations, word processing, data entry, reporting and numerous other such tasks is being challenged on the basis of concerns for energy conservation, the impact on our environment, a refocusing on family values, and number of other issues. It just doesn’t make sense for workers to commute back and forth to an office anymore. Telework, also referred to as e-work or telecommuting, offers a more productive working environment with fewer distractions that result in better job performance, improved employee morale and job satisfaction, reduced absenteeism and less sick leave usage.

Estimates suggest that over 50 million U.S. workers (about 40 percent of the working population) could work from home at least part of the time; yet in 2008, only 2.5 million employees (not including the self-employed) considered their home their primary place of business.

There are many myths associated with telecommuting, which create a barrier for widespread acceptance. For example, managers wonder how they will know that their employees are actually working if they’re not in the office. To combat these types of concerns, a number of technologies are now available allowing employees and managers to track business products and services and to communicate with their teams effectively and efficiently.

The State of Arizona’s Telework Program has served as a model and resource for employers internationally for nearly two decades. As an extremely diverse organization with more than 21,000 employees in Maricopa County — representing 100 very different agencies, and residing in 265 separate buildings, the state has implemented a tremendously successful program. More than 20 percent of its total employees in the county are actively participating. The measurable impact is astonishing; estimates show that state teleworkers annually drive 5.25 million fewer miles, generate 175,000 fewer pounds of air pollution and endure 181,000 fewer hours of stressful driving time.

Nearly 100 CEOs, human resource directors and IT managers gathered in Scottsdale this month for a half-day E-work Summit to learn specific techniques that they can apply today to start moving towards the e-workplace of tomorrow. The event was sponsored by several local companies and organizations, including Valley Forward.

We are on the verge of a new era in telecommunications that will undoubtedly impact how we work and live. You can be at the forefront in changing how we do business to improve quality of life and sustainability by integrating the e-workplace into your existing business models.