Whatever Happened to the Virtual Workplace?
Christiane Hoeninger’s recent SCN blog Whatever Happened to the Paperless Society? got me wondering:
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE VIRTUAL WORKPLACE?
Coincidentally, I attended a great presentation that same day on Allstream’s Workplace 2.0 by Vice President of IT Gary Davenport, which led me to consider why I haven’t heard more about tele-commuting lately.
I’ll admit to selfish motives here … Toronto, the city where I work, boasts the world’s longest commute times. According to an article by the Toronto Star, “At 80 minutes per round trip, Toronto commuters spend 24 minutes a day longer dragging themselves to and from work than people in Los Angeles, 12 minutes longer than New Yorkers, and 32 minutes longer than residents of Barcelona.” As much as I enjoy the interactions with my colleagues around the office, tele-commuting is looking pretty good!
While some managers may have concerns about the whole idea of working-from-home, many organizations appreciate the business case. Allstream’s original business case was centered around the following four pillars:
Reducing business continuity risks
A business continuity plan needs to take into account potential security threats, transit disruptions, epidemics (e.g. SARS, H1N1) etc. This is especially true for offices located in major metropolitan areas. A tele-commuting infrastructure allows operations to continue in the event of unforeseen business interruptions.
Businesses can realize significant annual savings on real estate costs (not to mention the money saved by the employees on the cost of commuting).
Attracting and retaining talent
Most employees would appreciate the option to work from home, at least part of the time. This may or may not be driven by the Gen Y’ers (we seem to blame them for everything these days). Either way, offering this type of flexibility seems a good way to ensure access to the best talent.
75% of Allstream’s remote employees reported an increase in productivity. Using my own Toronto example, even if I only count the average of 80 minutes per day in saved commute time, that’s 6.67 hours per week more work time. But my experience is that you work harder when you work from home (fewer distractions), and the work day tends to spill over into “personal time” (a discussion for another time).
With the rising concern surrounding the climate crisis, changes in employee commuting habits represent a real opportunity for addressing GHG emissions. This Bright Hub article cites a Gartner Dataquest 2008 report, which indicates tele-commuting will rise through 2011. I wonder if the rate of growth is increasing beyond Gartner’s predictions with the rise of the sustainability movement.
Technology barriers seem to have been removed. Mobile access to the Internet is proliferating. Social networking options alleviate some of the isolation associated with working from home. There’s even a “working from home” emoticon in my office instant messaging application.
So what about you? Compared to 3 years ago, do you tele-commute more or less?