It doesn’t take having a tech or sales job to have an opportunity to work from home. Many positions in most companies can easily be accomplished from a home office. In many cases, work can be done more efficiently and for lower cost. Why do so many companies still require the daily commute? Are physical offices a remnant that companies simply can’t let go?
It wouldn’t work for every company. There will always be a need for “feet on the ground” to make many businesses run properly, but many companies are missing the opportunity that the internet, mobile connectivity, and collaboration tools are offering.
There are fears that go along with leaving employees to their own recognizance. Will the work get done? How will it be managed? Will the “team” aspect of physical offices be lost? Would there be a lack of personalization and pride?
Most of these and other fears can be alleviated with a proper understanding and logistic planning. The office, for all that it has done over the centuries, can be minimized for many companies. They simply have to understand the benefits and take action towards virtualization.
The first thought that comes to mind when executives look at the possibility of having employees work from home is monitoring. If they aren’t at the office to have the whip cracked on them, they will grow lazy and spend time on the couch watching afternoon soaps rather than working.
This couldn’t be further from the proof when technology enters into the equation. Most jobs have performance metrics that can determine how productive an employee is. These are often easy to measure and monitor quickly, allowing for drops in productivity to be noted.
More importantly, many jobs can actually be monitored more easily through technology. Some companies keep webcams and screen monitoring software watching both the employees and their screens. It’s easier to manage and monitor a large number of people via streams watched on a manager’s computer rather than walking from cubicle to cubicle, office to office, to makes sure that it’s work and not Facebook or YouTube in the employees’ browsers.
Other companies use simple communication tools such as Skype to keep track of activities. In task-based professions, Skype can be used to update current and past activities with proper timestamps and extended storage of day-to-day activities.
This is the easy one. It’s cheaper to keep employees at home rather than supply them with office space. Anyone who has worked at a company whose office space was too small for the number of employees knows the most annoying challenge of working for growing companies.
Expansion and reduction in workforce is much easier and less expensive to manage with virtual employees than keeping office space that fits with the current and future headcount.
Not everyone wants to work from home. Many people need the separation between business and pleasure, between professional life and personal life.
Those who enjoy the privilege of working from home will feel trusted. They’ll value their job more, particularly when friends and family tell horror stories about the drive to work or office politics.
Expanded Talent Pool
In a down economy, people want good jobs. In a healthy economy, competition for top talent is high. Either way, allowing people to work from home greatly expands the potential talent pool radius. A programmer in Maine may be better (and cheaper) than a programmer in Silicon Valley.
In competitive arenas, companies must compete with office perks such as Google’s rock climbing wall, Tagged.com and their massage days, or Eventbrite’s “Zen Room.” All of these can be trumped for many potential employees by the ability to do it all from the comfort of home.
Increased Productive Time
Sick days are often taken not because someone cannot work but because they have a bug and don’t want to spread it in the office. It’s just common courtesy, but that can be eliminated by non-office work.
In many areas, the weather plays a role in productivity. Getting snowed in can keep people at home, while other natural events make people late. Traffic, train delays, and other transportation difficulties can cut into the productive time an employee has to spend.
Then, there’s the daily commute. In a standard 22-day work month, a 45-minute commute to and from work equates to 33 hours of lost time. Many employees would be willing to trade some of this time in for actual work time if they could do it from the house.
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There are plenty of reasons that employees need to come into the office. Having virtual employees isn’t for everyone, but for those who have the ability and willingness to make it happen, the results can be extremely beneficial.
In the end, it comes down to “the team” aspect. If a true team mentality can be maintained even when people aren’t seeing each other live every day, letting people work from home can be a plus. If it hurts the team, it hurts the company and should be avoided.
This infographic explores the evolution of teams from the prehistoric era all the way through to the post-PC era.