Of course, the problem is not that managers wish to create distracting or stifling workspaces. Unfortunately, the culprit is usually the budget. It's simply not in the budget to change or expand your space. This doesn't change until employees are more successful and since their environment can contribute to their lack of success, this cycle can loop endlessly. Another possible culprit is that corporate dictates how things are organized. People who aren't in the space on a daily basis are defining how it should flow and how people should work.
I've worked from the beach, a campsite, an airport, my home office, a coffee shop, a restaurant, and various other locations. It's rewarding to have such flexibility to live my life, and because of this, I'm actually more productive and give back quite a bit of flexibility.
When I'm ill, I don't have to call in sick. I can work from home whenever able and probably will do what I can so I don't have to use up all my sick time. Best of all, I don't have to be at the office feeling awful and that actually makes the work bearable.
When you have parents who live out of town, a busy lifestyle, family obligations, or any number of things that impact your availability on some level, time is a valuable asset. Getting rid of the commute is a benefit in so many ways. Rediscover an hour or two of your day, reduce the cost of gas needed, less wear and tear on your vehicle, remove the stress of driving in traffic, and as an added bonus you're helping the environment. Additionally, you get to work where you're comfortable and you get to pick the environment that best suits your working style.
While there needs to be ways to monitor productivity, communicate quickly and easliy with virtual team members, and some structure around the virtual office plan, the business culture it promotes is one of trust, understanding and believe it or not, connectivity. It really does take the work out of work and when people are enjoying their lives more, they are also able to enjoy their work more.
- Employees value telecommuting as an added benefit.
- Increased flexibility can lead to a decrease in stress and increased morale.
- Results-based focus can lead to more task-oriented achievements.
- A "greener" company and a smaller carbon footprint.
- It can result in a substantial savings in overhead expenses.
- Often increases communication among teams.
- Trust and integrity are the cornerstones for success, thus building a stronger group of employees.
The ability to telecommute at least part of the time is valued very highly among employees. Not only does it give them more time, it also saves money and allows them to work where they are most comfortable and in some jobs, when they are most productive.
Since virtual offices focus on results-based performance, productivity can often increase. Telework Exchange performed a study of Federal managers, of which 66% of managers who manage teleworkers find that teleworkers are as productive as their in-office counterparts. (“Face to Face with Management Reality - A Telework Research Report.” Telework Exchange. 1/22/07. http://www.teleworkexchange.com/managementstudy/.)
However, if you're trying to boast a "greener" company, it's important to note that the environmental impacts alone are enormous. (The following statistics are from The US General Services Administratrion - Telework Exchange: http://www.teleworkexchange.com/pdfs/The-Benefits-of-Telework.pdf.)
- Total GSA Telework Work Trip Miles Saved By Teleworkers = 4,735,146 Single Occupancy Vehicle Miles.
- Total GSA Telework Work Trip Gas (gallons) Saved by Teleworkers = 220,239.3 Gallons.
- Total GSA Telework Work Trip Emissions (tons) Saved by Teleworkers = 2,299.5 Tons.
Believe it or not, working virtually has been in practice for years. There are a number of technological advances that make such work not only possible, but secure and successful. The number of Americans whose employer allows them to work remotely at least one day per month increased 63 percent, from 7.6 million in 2004 to 12.4 million in 2006. (Source: The Telework Advisory Group for World at Work. http://www.workingfromanywhere.org).
It often increases communication among teams simply because they are put into programs and tools that facilitate communication and collaboration such as instant messengers, document sharing programs, and virtual conferences.
Ownership of smartphones and tablets are on a rise and the majority of larger businesses offer WiFi, but we can always connect via 3G on these devices. We have the ability, more than ever, to work from anywhere. Which circles back to the idea of flexibility. When employers offer that leeway, then employees tend to give back as well. For example, "Susan has to travel for business, but since she has a few extra hours to take care of her family before the trip, she might be more likely to work at the airport while waiting for her flight or in the hotel later that evening."
- Determine which of your positions can potentially work from outside the office.
- Define the responsibilities of those positions.
- Try telecommuting with one or two employees who display examplary performance for as little as once a month to as much as once a week.
- Promote and grow the program based on your company's positions and your employees' performance.
"Face to Face with Management Reality - A Telework Research Report." Telework Exchange. 1/22/07. http://www.teleworkexchange.com/managementstudy/
The US General Services Administratrion (GSA) - Telework Exchange - "The Benefits of Telework." http://www.teleworkexchange.com/pdfs/The-Benefits-of-Telework.pdf
The Telework Advisory Group for World at Work. http://www.workingfromanywhere.org