Who cares about WHERE?
I work two days a week remotely. If my corporate IT department rolled out VPN to everyone, I’d be equipped to do all my work remotely. What are the benefits? I can hide out in cafes and produce content (I wrote a project plan and a value proposition this morning, and I worked on some Requests For Proposal documents this afternoon) without colleagues stopping by to shoot the breeze.
I’m connected by my Blackberry to email, voice, even a proprietary chat device. Were my laptop equipped with Wi-Fi, I’d have full internet access, too. I’m getting just as much done without access to a cubicle.
How does this change things? It means my company can purchase smaller floorspace, because bandwidth and technology are cheaper. It means that we can reduce traffic on the roads, reduce consumption of fossil fuel (after all, our President says we have to kick our addiction to oil). It means that people can work when something comes to mind, sometimes more hours, sometimes fewer, to produce more by working in accordance with their own internal schedules.
It means the company can cut down costs for voice lines (IM works fine, and secure enterprise IM is even better). It means we can service the global customer by working whichever hours cross the time zones we need to interact with. Companies can cut services, recover revenue, and be seen as the good guys for offering a current, hip benefit. Allowing employees to be home with their families and still be productive sure makes an HR department seem like heroes.
Of course, there’s a serious challenge to managing such a disperse environment, but this mostly resides in the mind. Most companies feel that by keeping employees relatively tethered to their cubicles is equivalent to ensuring that employees work an adequate amount of time and produce an appropriate amount of content. Clearly where one sits doesn’t determine output, does it? If a company isn’t trusting of an employee’s output, just how much different is the environment at a desk in an office space than a table in a cafe?
But this is an issue of management and measurement, and as such, this can be determined. It becomes a matter of finding the appropriate measurement, and it obviously relates to the job at hand. Help desk employees might be held to a standard to clear 15 tickets a day, and move 20 more tickets towards resolution. Finance employees might have to turn in XYZ spreadsheets and report filings per day. There ARE measures available. It just takes effort to determine what they are.
The issue of “where” is far less important these days. Meetings can be held in virtual space, reserving face-to-face events for when they are more necessary. Where all public companies are looking to improve their value and profitability for the same or less operating cost, the costs that can be recovered by enpowering a large quantity of employees to work remotely are significant.
Who cares about WHERE?