With the cost of gas and real estate soaring, more companies are recognizing the value of embracing the “distributed worker.” In Palo Alto, California they are seeing a 10 percent increase in office vacancies. The reason is not a slowdown in business, but rather, a result of more companies encouraging their employees to telecommute.
Charlie Grantham, executive producer of the Work Design Collaborative, a Prescott, Arizona-based consortium that focuses on researching and defining the future of work says companies can reduce operating costs by 40 percent per person by letting them telecommute. Yeah – I know you have the image of the slob sitting at home with no shirt, nursing a beer, and watching ESPN while pretending to work. However, research coming in does not support that picture.
Cisco Systems, for instance, estimates a 25 percent increase in worker productivity among telecommuters. IBM has saved millions on real estate costs; Sun Microsystems reports that they saved $67.8 million in real estate costs in fiscal 2006. More than 18,000 Sun employees participate in their telecommuting program.
Deloitte estimates a $40 million savings in reduced employee turnover costs; and Google has found that you can often hire higher-quality talent by taking the work to the talent.
And we haven’t even mentioned what it does for the worker. With 50 mile commutes common, the teleworker would immediately get about a $250/month raise from the gas savings alone. And what about wardrobe savings; and lunch at home rather than popping into the local restaurant where a Coke is $2.00? To say nothing of the reduced stress. This morning as am “working” I saw a deer in my front yard, stopped to fill my bird feeders and take a short walk, had my daughter and granddaughter stop in for a few minutes – but still am right on track with the deadlines I set for today.
The new “results-only work environment” (ROWE) seeks to demolish decades-old business expectations that equate physical presence with productivity. The new goal is to judge performance on output instead of hours.
Both companies and individuals had better be open to this option if they want to stay on the leading edge of innovation. Otherwise, they risk losing out to companies like Best Buy and IBM, who are already seeing the direct effect this new way of working is having on their bottom lines, and the happiness of their workers. Those high-rise office buildings can be leased to the government for prison cells or to farmers for veal-fattening pens.