Posts Tagged ‘Telecommuting’
The world we live in today is changing and I believe we are going through many changes that are as significant as the industrial revolution. Even the changes that were brought about by the computerization of businesses due to the affordability of the desktop computer are not as significant or as rapid as what is going on now. Social media and the connectivity brought about by high speed internet have shrunken the world. Brick and mortar may be a thing of the past for some businesses. We need to understand this and be on the leading edge of this change so we can take advantage of it in our businesses. This means telecommuting policies must be liberalized, use of office building space re-evaluated to maximize efficiency. If you have a 2,500 square foot office that is used from 8 to 5 for five days a week, it is no longer acceptable to have that asset sit idle for most of the time. I have listed a few examples below some creative thinking might have to take place to make it work, but it could be worth it:
- A roller skating rink or gymnastics center by night, a day care service by day.
- Public school during the week, college campus or trade school on Saturday – maybe tuition won’t be so high.
- Use public school space for day care or summer learning by for-profit businesses and use rental income to defray costs or pass savings on to tax payers. It could be a win-win situation.
- Breakfast and lunch restaurant operated by company ABC and a Dinner restaurant for company XYZ. Inventory control could be interesting.
- Two firms occupy one space at same time and share usage between first shift and second shift. If it saves half the rent maybe it is worth it? Or two firms can offer telecommuting half the time and share the space since they only need half as much space.
- How about an ice cream shop in the warmer months a trendy hot beverage and soup place in the cooler months. If you are on the hook for rent all year and can sublet it for even half price why not? Who wouldn’t want a latte or hot chocolate to go with a stuffed pepper soup on a cold winter day?
- How about a bakery that turns into a pizza shop for dinner hours? The bakery is done by noon and the pizza shop closes by 11 PM; that leaves plenty of time for the transition if you design a streamlined process. Read about an interesting pizza idea here.
Perhaps these ideas would not all work but it is time to change the way we think. Who would have thought that FaceBook would be worth 100 billion dollars? I would be interested in hearing your ideas for business combinations that could take advantage of cost sharing.
Have a great week finding the jelly to your peanut butter.
How will you answer that question? Is it your computer system capabilities? Perhaps, you have manufacturing equipment that is valuable. Maybe it is a delivery vehicle, bulldozer or dump truck. You might say how you answer that question depends on the business you are in. I say you might be wrong. None of those responses consider human capital, your employees.
Over the past several years the economy has been terrible but you have probably maintained your equipment and machinery to keep it running properly. What have you done for your employees? Are your treating them as an asset or as a liability? The “problem” with employees is they have feelings and are just as easily affected by neglect or abuse. What can you do to keep them happy and working at top speed?
First of all, money is not everything. So I am not necessarily saying to give out raises when the times are tough. Many studies have shown that money is usually not the number one priority for workers. What you can do is treat them with respect and be up front with them about prospects for wage increases. My recommendation is to lead by example and show that the belt-tightening is affecting you as an owner too. This means you should not be having extravagant expenses such as getting a new company car or a plush remodeling of your office.
Below is a list of some small things that can go a long way to help morale:
- Recognize employees by “catching” them doing something right
- Be accessible to employees don’t hide from them with a bunker mentality
- Be a leader and keep positive. They should take the cue from you and the positive tone at the top will spread through the company. You must be authentic because if you are phony it is easy to see and will work in the opposite direction of what you want.
- Relax the dress code if appropriate or offer some flex time or establish a telecommuting policy if applicable. That will save you some overhead and they will save time and gas money even if only for one day a week.
- If possible, you can give an early quit day once in a while. An hour early on a nice Friday afternoon goes a long way and really doesn’t cost much.
- Buy donuts or bring in pizza for lunch if possible.
- Find creative ways to keep the mood light and positive, ask for suggestions.
By the way, all of the above can and should be done during good times as well as the bad. It doesn’t cost much to be nice. If you have a happy workforce it will pay dividends through better productivity and happier customers. Good luck, I encourage you to take a step to keep your most valuable asset running at top speed.
Have a great week applying the soft skills of managing your employees.
In part one I established the facts about the benefits of telecommuting for the employer and the employee. In this part, I want to talk about some businesses, job functions and employees for which telecommuting will or will not work. This is mostly common sense so I will try to be brief.
Let’s begin with businesses.
- Retail or any business that has a need for face to face contact with customers will not work. (However the back office operations may be fine for telecommuting.)
- Businesses with a great deal of inter-office collaboration amongst a team of employees are not good candidates for telecommuting. Teleconferencing or Skype may not give the same results as true face to face collaboration.
- You can rule out service industries that require being on site at the customer location – carpet cleaning, landscaping, remodeling, plumbing and similar trades. However service industries such as accountants, engineers and attorneys can be very effective working for a client from their home.
One of the advantages of working from home can be the lack of interruptions when away from co-workers and the drop in visits that can be a productivity killer. Not all people can stay focused on the task at hand when working from home, but more about that later. With the advantages of using a digital filing system which has become more widespread, there is no longer the need to be anchored down to an office just to access the filing cabinets.
What job functions work for telecommuting?
- If a company is still paper intensive, then paper handlers such as accounts payable and accounts receivable coordinators will be stuck at the office where the paper is located unless they cart it home. If the documents are digital, then accessing them electronically and working from home is not a problem.
- A human resource professional that is interfacing with employees will have to be in the office. However, on days that they are writing performance reviews, analyzing retirement or medical plan changes or making changes to policies they can work effectively from home.
- From experience I can say that accountants can work from home as well as tax preparers and payroll processors.
Now let’s look at the type of people that can or cannot work well from home.
- People who have children or pets (or spouses) that are at home who demand attention even if they are in an office out of the way are not good candidates for telecommuting.
- People who need supervision while working are not good candidates for telecommuting. In this case I am speaking of a person who is new to their position and need hands on assistance.
- Of course, there are some people who may need the structure of an office and will not do well in a solitary environment at home.
To evaluate telecommuting, assess the employee’s performance of the tasks assigned. Does it really matter that an employee takes a 2 hour break in the middle of the afternoon but works 2 hours at night and gets the work done? That kind of flexibility is what will create a win-win situation.
I have offered a few ideas to ponder but each situation needs to be addressed on its own merits. By using common sense and having an open mind, telecommuting can be available to a wider range of people than you might realize. Finally, to business owners I would advise consulting an HR professional to make sure you have a good telecommuting policy in place before implementing it throughout your company.
As I sit in my home office writing this; I have more affordable technology at my finger tips than was imaginable 10 years ago. I have fast broadband internet access that enables me to work remotely on a client’s network sending and receiving massive files without a delay. The internet connection I use in my office is provided by a $50 wireless router. I can sit in a meeting via teleconference using Skype for free and a $50 web camera. I can scan, print, copy and fax documents with an all-in-one device that was delivered to my door, tax included for less than $150. In addition, I have caller ID, voicemail, and unlimited long distance with digital phone from my cable provider. I also have a 500 gigabyte USB storage device the size of a 3 X 5 index card that is a half inch thick which can fit into a shirt pocket. That device automatically performs a backup on my laptop computer several times a day and it cost less than $100. 10 years ago that kind of storage was not practical for an individual. In a recent blog, I announced a redesigned web site that I completed in several hours. The web site costs less than $100 per year to maintain and comes with email accounts and plenty of storage. As I mentioned, I also have a blog that I designed and is linked to my web site. The software for the blog and web site was free and very easy to use. I can sign up for Google Analytics to get statistics on my web site traffic – also a free service. Some of the technology that I have and take for granted was not available to me 10 years ago when I was working for a division of a billion dollar publicly traded company!
I also have the ability to use email marketing such as constant contact as many times as I want a year for less than the price of an advertisement in a medium sized newspaper. I can start a fan page for my business on Facebook and use Twitter to keep my name in front of customers or potential customers – all for free. In addition, businesses can now access resources over the internet for things like graphic design, accounting, payroll services, engineering, HR consulting and so on.
If I can do this, what about businesses that are larger that have many employees? Of course they can. The point I am trying to make has nothing to do with my fabulously equipped office or my technical skills. It is this: companies need to take the next logical step in the technological revolution and tear down the walls of the corporate office and embrace the concept of the virtual office. If the new normal is a slower growth economy (sluggish sales) how can the bottom line grow? I believe that eliminating large corporate offices is the answer. Companies can reduce space to a smaller hub that is available to employees when face to face contact with other departments, staff members or customers is needed. The benefits are not only in facilities costs but a huge quality of life improvement to workers who can work from home a significant amount of the time.
A happier employee can bring better productivity and less stress which also can lead to lower health care costs. The value to an organization of a happy and motivated work force is immeasurable. In a recent Fortune magazine survey of the 100 best companies to work for, 84 of the 100 best had a telecommuting policy that allowed employees to work from home at least 20% of the time (that means 1 day per week). See the link to the online article below:
I know there are limitations for telecommuting, but company’s large and small need to consider embracing the concept. The technology is now here and is very affordable and it is good for the bottom line and the employee. In part two of this discussion I will talk about the types of businesses, job functions and people that are best suited for telecommuting.
Have a good week.