Financial Planning

Economic answers might start at home

WorryA show of hands, please: Who's nervous about the economy?

If a couple of recent reports are accurate, every hand in the house just shot up.

Financial Executives International just released its quarterly CFO Optimism Index, which gauges how optimistic American CFOs are about the nation's economy. According to the latest index, optimism is at an all-time low, and CFOs are raising prices, curbing business travel and looking for "green" business alternatives in an effort to offset higher energy prices.

Nowadays, of course, "curbing business travel" could be a euphemism for "telecommuting." Working from home is becoming an increasingly popular way to offset economic and environmental hardships. CCH says more companies are encouraging employees to telecommute as a way to cut travel costs and help the environment. It's also a great way to boost morale and increase employee recruitment and retention rates.

Telecommuting, in a word, rocks. I've been doing it for two and a half years now, and I love it. My commute is about 20 feet, a tank of gas seems to last forever, and I feel like I'm more productive than I've ever been.

But I'm starting to wonder: Will the panic over rising energy prices begin to fade soon? Oil prices continue to fall, and here in St. Louis, the price of a gallon of gas has dropped by nearly 50 cents in the last couple of weeks. As energy prices level off, will the infatuation with telecommuting fade away?

I hope not, for a couple of reasons. First, it's a pretty sad day when $3.50 for a gallon of gas seems likes a bargain. Second, I think telecommuting is way too beneficial -- for employees, employers and the environment alike -- for us to ever dismiss it.

Time will tell where we go from here. But me? I'm going to the office. It's 20 feet away. I'm guessing that in the not-too-distant future, a lot of you will be joining me.

In your offices, of course. Not mine. That would be a little weird.


Bill Sheridan