2010 Sun Micro Smart 2020 Report: Global ICT Solution Case Studies

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Sun Microsystems’ employee Open Work telecommuting program

Key Facts

  • For over 14 years, Sun has had an employee telecommuting policy that allows 19,000 employees worldwide (56% of their workforce) to work away from the office at least one day per week, and the average U.S. teleworker spent 2.5 days per week out of the office.

  • Components of the solution include:

    • “Thin client” hardware/software solution allows employees to access full desktop and file system from any location with secure encrypted 2-way transmission, and no physical storage of data on the employee device
    • Flexible telephony system (provided by Access Line) allows routing of phone calls to any location desired

    The project is long-term (it began 15 years ago), built up gradually but has been stable for last 8 or so years

  • The project took 24 months to implement
  • Additional benefits to carbon savings include:

    • the average employee saves 107 hrs./yr (i.e nearly 3 weeks vacation!)
    • time flexibility is very valuable to employees, who prefer to work expanded hours at home with breaks than a typical 8-hr. workday
    • the ability of managers to source the best team members globally, rather than rely on physically proximate but less experienced employees
  • The actual (or likely) cost of the project is Sun reimburses employees for high speed internet and phone service in their homes, with amounts that vary by Open Work category.
  • The actual (or projected) savings from the project are $64M/yr in avoided real estate costs; $2.5M in electricity using thin clients (vs desktop PCs); $20M in desktop administration costs based on thin client vs. desktop PC, plus employee commuting savings of $44M/yr ($2,335/yr per employee)
  • The primary sponsor for the project was Ann Bamesberger, VP of Open Work, has been a long-time champion of the open work policy and program

What was the impact?

  • Did you use a specific methodology or third party to calculate CO2e or KWh savings?
    A 2006 study conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection documented 173,000 vehicle trips per year savings resulting from flexible or work-from-home employees based on Sun’s Burlington, Massachusetts, campus. Results were very similar to Sun’s own findings. Carbon savings were estimated by combining annual commute miles avoided with employee vehicle economy estimates, then converting fuel savings to tons of CO2. kWh savings were estimated based on measurements of electrical consumption by office equipment in the home and Sun offices.

  • Comments on energy savings
    120-180 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy per year saved per employee (80 to 140 kWh/yr working at home, compared to about 260 kWh of energy working in one of Sun’s offices). This included estimated energy from home heating and cooling systems, as well as all the electrical and electronic equipment required to do their jobs. Energy cost of employee home offices is negligible compared to energy savings of avoided commute: about 50-100x

  • 52,000 t CO2e has been saved on this project , over a period of 12 months
  • Notes about Carbon savings/calculations
    Approximately 52,000 metric tons CO2/yr are saved in US alone

  • Comments on fuel savings
    Savings equate to 151 gallons/yr and 3700 mi/yr per employee in U.S. Savings are therefore stimated at 126,000 gallons/yr in the U.S. (1.2% of U.S. employees).

  • The project has internal verification for results

Making it Happen

  • The following regulations or incentives allowed the business case to be more attractive
    There was no regulatory incentive for the project. Initially the open work program was borne out of a need to expand the workforce more rapidly than real estate could be acquired, but once begun, the financial advantages were so great that it became self-sustaining

  • Barriers experienced during the initiation of the project
  • Comments regarding barriers

    • Main concern was among managers concerned about how they would effectively manage employees they never see
    • Cultural concern about loss of productivity
    • Cultural concern about taking employee’s data away from them, e.g. migrating from standalone computer to central server
  • How were they overcome?

    • Modern management style is based on long-term performance goals, so little need to manage employees daily, provided they call into meetings!
    • Loss of productivity is real, but is more than compensated for by voluntary expansion of employee work hours, which they don’t mind because of the flexible work hours it affords – Managers reserve the right to rescind telecommuting privileges for underperforming employees, or when project needs require physical proximity (typically only done for short periods of time, during the initial phase of a project).
    • Thin client solution has become accepted by workforce as a superior alternative to standalone computer, due to protection against data loss (through central server backup) and ability to collaborate remotely (through shared data)



Project Type
Solution Type
Carbon Saved
52,000 t CO2e

“Face-to-face is overrated; I care more about the frequency and fidelity of the communication.” Jonathan Schwartz, CEO and President, Sun Microsystems; Quoted in Andreas Kluth, “The New Nomadism,” The Economist, April 2008

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Company Name
Sun Microsystems


Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ: JAVA) provides network computing infrastructure solutions that include computer systems, software, storage and services. Its core brands include the Java technology platform, the Solaris operating system, MySQL, StorageTek and the UltraSPARC processor.

  • Access Line (part of Telenetix)
    The company’s hosted telecom Voice services, marketed under the “AccessLine™” brand, give companies flexible calling solutions, a simpler installation experience, and a greater range of support options than traditional telecom providers. With a history of serving over 100,000 business customers, including Sun Microsystems, American Express and IBM, we’ve scaled our award-winning technologies to meet the needs of entrepreneurial-minded small businesses.