As communication technology advances and tools become more pervasive, the traditional office blurs, i.e. geography and time zone. Organizations are more-and-more giving up traditional brick and mortar, in exchange for the online office. High speed internet is now available in many places. Business can be conducted at home or at the local coffee establishment. The term telecommuting includes all remote working and work from home arrangements.
The trend is growing --
“In a recent Accountemps survey, one-third (33 percent) of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said remote work arrangements, such as telecommuting and working from satellite offices, have increased at their companies in the last three years.” (PR Newswire 09.14.2011)
“TechCast, a virtual think tank based at George Washington University, forecasts that 30% of the employees in industrialized nations will telework 2–3 days a week by the year 2019. What’s more, they estimate the market for related products and services at $400 billion a year.” (TeleworkResearchNetwork.com / Kate Lister / May 2010)
Benefits to these arrangements include –
Benefits to Employer – “Half-time home-based work among those with compatible jobs could save employers over $10,000 per employee per year—the result of increased productivity, reduced facility costs, lowered absenteeism, and reduced turnover. The cumulative benefit to U.S. companies would exceed $400 billion a year.” (TeleworkResearchNetwork.com / Kate Lister / May 2010)
Benefits to Employee – “Overall, researchers have found that virtual workers are slightly more satisfied than their in-office counterparts. In general, virtual work leads to higher satisfaction, lower absenteeism and higher retention. Additionally, because the majority of virtual assignments result from the employees’ expressed desire, organizations usually observe little to no decrease in production or performance. On the contrary, productivity often increases (Erskine, 2009; Mulki, Bardhi, Lassk & Nanavaty-Dahl, 2009).” (Cornell University study Remote Work: An Examination of Current Trends and Emerging Issues Spring 2011)
Benefits to Society – Online Office arrangements provide the opportunity for those with disabilities to more efficiently participate in and/or transition into the workforce, i.e. an online arrangement may allow individuals on maternity leave to transition back to the work force more easily.
Benefits to date have been experienced by employers and employees, using a combination of various technology tools. Top 10 technologies that companies provide to support remote workers include - Laptop 62%, Virtual Private Network (VPN) 40%, Instant Messaging 29%, Outlook Web App (OWA) 28%, On-line Meeting 27%, SmartPhone Mobile Computing 25%, Desktop 21%, Remote Desktop 18%, Collaboration/On-line Workspace 17%, Video Conference 17%. (Microsoft 2010 US Remote Working Research Summary National Survey Findings).
However, as you would expect with changes in business methods, come unforeseen issues, i.e. innovation creates disruption –
Issue 1 – Employee Exclusion - “Employees in virtual environments may develop perceptions of exclusion or isolation due to their need to rely on technology to communicate with others; common forms of communication technology (e.g., email) do not provide a high level of information richness and can inhibit social exchange (Marshall, Michaels, & Mulki, 2007).” (Cornell University study Remote Work: An Examination of Current Trends and Emerging Issues Spring 2011)
Issue 2 – Remote Responsiveness - “Some remote employees struggle when attempting to coordinate their work with their managers and other employees or when attempting to receive timely feedback.” (Cornell University study Remote Work: An Examination of Current Trends and Emerging Issues Spring 2011)
More and more companies are figuring out the proper way to reap these benefits, while addressing the issues.
Where is your company in this process?