Technology for Teleworking

1/19/2009

TELEWORKING IS NOTHING NEW, YET TECHNOLOGY IS MAKING IT MORE COST-EFFECTIVE TO USE. “…management by and large is becoming more open to the fact that workers get work done even if they can’t see them. The U.S. worker will be a mélange of office inhabitant and work-anywhere warrior.” (1)


Telecommuting has been used since the advent of the laptop computer in the mid 1980’s; the Internet pushed it further ahead circa 1994. Today technology tools such as broadband subscriptions, virtual conferencing, MS Sharepoint, dataplans from cellular carriers and wireless synching to smartphones have made it readily accessible and cost effective to do. “Telecommuting” has evolved into “Teleworking”.

In October 2007, MSNBC published that Gartner Dataquest found that “Today, upwards of 12 million employees telework more than 8 hours per week, up from about 6 million in 2000. The number will hit nearly 14 million by 2009. Caroline Jones, an analyst for Gartner, expects the number to continue to grow because the rate of increase has been steady for a number of years… She calls it “the quiet revolution” and sees it slowly becoming a standard flexible work option Corporate America offers workers; like job sharing or maternity leave.” (2) The Telework Consortium, a group that helps public and private organizations implement telework programs, says, “telework is more than working from home; it is the practice of working remotely and securely from any place, at any time.” Rita Walston, executive director of the Telework Consortium, “sees companies increasingly paring down their offices and office buildings to save money and accommodate teleworkers.” She says: “If you have 1,500 employees, instead of having to provide workspace for each one you provide 300 people with a workspace on any given day while four fifths of the organization is working elsewhere.” (3) …telecommuting will become a mainstay in Corporate America.

Even as telework becomes ubiquitous, human interaction won’t be totally replaced. “Face-to-face meetings with superiors will still be with us, for company cohesion and career advancement, but held much less often,” says Michael Haaren, president of Staffcentrix. “They’ll be replaced with high-realism communications options, higher expectations of employee initiative and autonomy, and 1-on-1 or small-group ‘mini huddles’ that have clear objectives, take place wherever convenient, and end when objectives are met.” (4)

Having served as commercial realtor for the 12.5yrs prior to Q407, I know that commercial real estate became more expensive (maintained by high rents to cover high sale prices or development costs); I also know that oil became more expensive, roads became more congested, people remained overworked to juggle lifestyle and/or family life. It’s become the perfect storm to materially inhibit work (and life) productivity. Employers suffer from staff sitting in traffic or having their lifestyle slow staff’ productivity. Teleworking can remove these inhibitors to foster staff productivity. Federal support is expected as well. Change.gov. says the Obama-Biden Plan to revitalize the American economy is expected to include “…help businesses create flexible work opportunities; and increase federal incentives for telecommuting.”

The following tools facilitate effective Teleworking: i) personal workspace, ii) desktop PC or laptop with at least a Pentium 3 processor and 512MB of RAM, iii) broadband (or T-1 connection) to the Internet, iv) Ethernet and/or wireless connectivity to the Internet from a computer while traveling, v) a landline voice connection as needed, vi) a modern computer operating system, web browser and office productivity software, vii) connection to company email, viii) smart cell phone with data plan and enterprise activation. Net of equipment costs, a teleworker can be equipped to work effectively for about $135/month. A 9’x11’ office/workspace for a knowledge worker (99sf) could cost about $288.75/month (includes rent and utilities); teleworking cuts 50% of staffing costs from net income; those savings add up from the workers participating. Additionally, some back office roles can be performed at any time of day, by quality workers living in distant locations or by workers with ADA inhibitors. If completed work must merely meet deadlines and doesn’t require regular office space, Teleworking offers a highly productive work environment that fosters work/life balance.

CDS offers technology tools to enable Teleworking. Webmail, Hosted MS Exchange (HMXT) for file sharing, MS Sharepoint for file collaboration and virtual conferencing. All tools are subscription based and scalable, enabling one or more staff to use it. If your company is considering to use Teleworking, or have it and are unhappy with the performance of your infrastructure, please contact me to arrange a conference call. We’ll talk out your status to identify the right mix of plans to put Teleworking to work in your business. ###

(1,2,3,4: The quiet revolution: telecommuting, By Eve Tahmincioglu, msnbc.com contributor, Fri., Oct. 5, 2007).

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