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What does it take to keep an employee happy.

In this day and age of employees working from the office, home and in between, we are issuing more and more laptops rather than traditional desk top computers. I have a number of employees arguing that I should buy them docking stations for both home and work to make their life easier( meaning that they often forget to bring their powercord with their laptop computer). I don't see many docking stations around these days. Am I being mean to reject their request on grounds of cost.

Answers

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Is the ROI on a small unit cost worth the aggravation? If it enables your staff to do their job and keeps productivity up, then it pays.

However, the real issue you should focus on is what you'll do when they forget their laptops :)

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

I do not see the necessity for purchasing two docking stations for each laptop user. Docking stations, where I work, are only given to employees with only a laptop that are used in the office or on construction sites. No employee has two docking stations. If an employee has a desktop and a laptop, no docking station is provided.

Just because it isn’t a bad idea to purchase two docking stations, doesn’t mean it is a good idea, or a good policy to have.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Most laptops will also accept direct input from the power cord/transformer without a docking station. And power cords are cheaper than docking stations.

Most of us have docking stations to allow the use of full sized keyboards and large monitors as compared to the miniaturized versions inherent to our laptops when we are at a non-travel locations like home, the office, etc. Are they going to ask you for a second keyboard and monitor for home use as well if you provide the second docking station for them?

And Wayne's comment isn't that far off. More than once I've rushed off to the office and left my laptop sitting next to my armchair at home which I didn't discover until I got to work and opened my briefcase. It's embarrassing and non-productive.

I'd suggest offer the second power cord for convenience and the relative low cost.

The biggest headache with laptops and similar items in my own experience is control. Such relatively expensive items that are portable and easily utilized for both personal and business purposes, have a way of disappearing or ending up damaged with little or incomplete tracking to allow for follow up on responsibility.

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

Generally IT will do cost/benefit analysis and recommend the "optimal" solution to the business. The power cords and "loaner" laptops for those days when equipment is forgotten home is an approach that has worked. Hope this helps.

Chris Holtzer
Title: Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis
Company: Sargento
(Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis, Sargento) |

My laptop is attached at the hip. I am confused on the need for two docks though. For me, a docking station at work supplies my power feed, and allows me the luxury of full sized keyboard/mouse/dual monitors, etc, and then the traditional power cords travel with me.

I don't need a full station at home. I use the laptop, as a laptop in its traditional form outside the office. I suppose it would be heavily dependent on what you are expecting/wanting employees to do remotely. Personally, when working remotely I am doing that which can't wait until I am back in the office. For me that means emails...never ending emails. I save the analysis type work for in the office, when I have the full capacity of the docked machine. The laptop is for catch up reading and putting out fires when I am not in the building.

Find out how and where the employee plans to work. If just work and home, the solution may be different that if they work on the train/bus, or travel to customers, etc. If the employee needs a full blown setup for only at home, then I think a laptop is the wrong technology to employ. A VPN setup on a separate desktop/terminal in both locations would make more sense to me. Laptops are expensive, delicate, and difficult to use for more advanced workloads.

As someone who is used to the mobile workstation setup, I can say it would be a deal breaker for me, if my employer couldn't/wouldn't provide the hardware needed to allow me flexibility of location. With a young family, it is one of those benefits that is almost non-negotiable in my mind. It's like not offering healthcare, or a 401k. The modern office needs to have that flexibility, especially for salaried professionals.

Lynn Zeiner
Title: Business Manager
Company: DME Alliance, Inc
LinkedIn Profile
(Business Manager, DME Alliance, Inc) |

I work from home 3 days per week and I didn't feel the need for 2 docking stations, I simply asked for a second power cord. Makes life super simple, just unplug and go. I would offer that compromise.

Robert Neyens
Title: CFO
Company: TITAN containers
(CFO, TITAN containers) |

I think docking stations are old school.

First of all, new laptops tend to have different connections, making your docking stations obsolete.
Secondly you need to know exactly how they use their laptops. From the above you already have several examples of use. Are they mostly on the road or are they just switching between office and home?

I have a laptop which in the office is connected to a flat screen, keyboard and mouse. Theoretical I could make use of both screens at the same time. At home or travelling I just use my laptop.

From a costing point of view, it's cheaper to have 2 flat screens, keyboards and mouse. 1 set for the office and 1 set for at home. Benefit is that these appliances can be used on any laptop, desktop etc.... same applies for power leads....
Even have 1 or 2 loaner or spare laptops for the odd occasion that someone forgot his/hers at home or in case of break down/theft is cheaper then docking stations and again more efficient.

The office environment can have 'flying desks'. Again more flexibility and less costly.

Finally I suggest to announce to co-workers that x or y has forgotten his laptop or power cords. Embarrass or make a bit of fun of them sometimes works wonders because nobody wants that kind of attention on them.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I think many have missed the mark. It's not whether the docking station is new or old hat, whether we offer additional power cords or large screen monitors and which brand.

It's whether the incidental cost will enhance productivity and ultimately increase the bottom line.

You as the CFO need to gauge when a expense is warranted and when its not. Just as we need to control T & E and use a litmus test as to the business reason for that spend, we need the same with technology.

Topic Expert
Brenda Goudey
Title: CFO/VP of Finance
Company: KDR Designer Showrooms
(CFO/VP of Finance, KDR Designer Showrooms) |

I'm with the Anonymous User, we buy our employees an additional power cord so they can leave it at home. If you're buying a docking station, then obviously you'll eventually be expected to buy the monitor, keyboard and mouse. We're already paying for their office space in our facilities, so not paying to set them up with another office in their home.

I'm a bit confused about the concept of a 'loaner' laptop. I carry mine with me because it has all of my stuff on it, the way I want it. Using a different one for a day would be less productive than driving back home to get mine.

Edward Thill
Title: VP - Finance & Operations
Company: Performance Trust
(VP - Finance & Operations, Performance Trust) |

I have to agree with Wayne. There is no single answer to whether a second dock is appropriate. Most of the answers here are clouded by how each poster works but the necessity (or not) should be driven by a specific cost/benefit review. Personally I have a set up at home similar to my office, complete with dock and dual monitors. I am constantly working with large spreadsheets and multiple programs simultaneously which makes use of a single, smaller laptop screen frustrating and terribly inefficient. I don't "work from home" but often bring work home especially on weekends so I was able to justify the cost based on the benefit. I have not provided the same set up for most of my staff as I don't want them carrying that same burden home with them, but that is a conscious decision based on current circumstances and always subject to review.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Are you making the decision for all employees in the company, or just those in your organization? I find the first issue is really fairness. One department allows it and another does not. Personally, I would allow it. But either way, it should be a companywide policy.

Topic Expert
Bob Stenz
Title: Controller
Company: Silicon Valley start-up
(Controller, Silicon Valley start-up) |

Working in a Mac environment I'll add that Macbooks are not designed to support docking stations. So, from Apple's standpoint...docking stations are not needed at work or home. Personally, I miss not having a docking station at work.

James Scott
Title: Consulting CFO
Company: Early Growth Financial Services
LinkedIn Profile
(Consulting CFO, Early Growth Financial Services) |

Is the home office for the convenience of the employee, or the benefit of the company? If mostly for the employees benefit, my thinking is they should pay for the docking station at home.

Our company is entirely home based, 80 employees working from home, few use docking stations. We provide one laptop, one monitor, printer, labs for developers and QA and a cell phone. Employees pay for their own local NAS, backups, UPS,and replacement routers if they want them. Many, like myself, pay for our own second monitors.

The company pays for Internet connections, but in my mind that is becoming debatable as home internet is a utility now. A company would never pay for home electric, heat, water or gas. Why internet? We also pay for office supplies, but not office furniture or fixtures. Or mileage for local trips to Staples or the post office.

The world is moving to BYOD and like the gunslingers in the old west the best IT folks are bringing their own guns to work(IT gear). Our internal IT group supports Apple and Android users needs, not just Windows. A large minority of new (under 30) hires are opting to use their own device, for everything. That will be a coming trend as IT becomes cheaper and more mobile. Laptops we have provided employees of all ages for working at home come back when they leave, some have never been used for any company related work at all.

The future is not company owned equipment. The PC is dead and the laptop on the way out. Next company I move to, I plan to own my own guns, too. Companies need to be careful about providing equipment over state lines, that can create a home office tax footprint you do not want for the convenience of folks working from their homes.

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