The Weather Outside is Frightful, Working from Home is Delightful!

Rob Enderle
Slide Show

Telecommuting's Powerful Benefits

More than 34 million Americans telecommute on an occasional basis at the least. While it may not be for everyone, the future of telework appears bright.

Right now, the weather sucks on the U.S. East Coast. But for many of us who work from home on and around the Internet, the weather situation isn't a catastrophe. Our commute consists of walking down a hallway and the traffic jam consists of pets in the hallway or a line of kids coming out of the bathroom. While we're in the midst of this "white hell," maybe it's time to look at work-at-home options to deal with emergencies and to reduce capital expenses. After all, companies are dramatically downsizing their offices anyway.


Cubicles vs. Home Offices


If you look at the typical cubical farm, you can see that they weren't designed for close collaboration: The noise that comes up over the sides of the cubes doesn't actually inspire contemplative work.


Homes have distractions as well: kids, pets, neighbors who figure since you are home it wouldn't be difficult to take care of their pets, home deliveries ... or kids. Having worked from home for over a decade, peace and quiet simply requires a high-tech item called a "door" that can be closed. It also helps to make it clear that work hours are just that: work hours. Like any job, there are breaks and during those breaks rather than going outside for a smoke or a coffee you can check on the dog or make sure little Johnny isn't burning down the house. This means that you probably aren't going to get rid of the nanny or mother-in-law who takes care of the kids.


Some people just don't have much of a work ethic when they aren't being supervised. But working from home should come with metrics that showcase work completed and milestones achieved. If the metrics are good, then it doesn't matter where the employee works because the firm is paying for a job to be done and not for someone to warm a chair and breathe conditioned air. (Some advice: You may want to start taking some of this into consideration when you choose your next job.)


The Cloud: An Enabler


If we think about where the cloud is going, it is to provide a set of services from any location to any location on demand. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the optimum mix would be both a virtual back end and a virtual front end to the business that would aggressively reconfigure itself based on changing needs. Virtual employees don't need to be relocated to form new groups; they only need to have their hours adjusted and become virtually connected into new working groups on the fly. Granted, this shouldn't happen too often or the employee might lose his or her sense of connection to the related project.


Currently, a large percentage of manufacturing is outsourced to aggregators; sales is outsourced through distributors; and retailers, accounting, much of IT, collections and most core staff functions by service providers, and even marketing can often be handled by agencies. While I doubt that we will ever get to the point where the only full-time employee is the CEO, the mechanisms that allow for this massive amount of specialization also provide for an environment where the concept of the cloud could make the office, for most of us, another room in our home.


Wrapping Up: Other Benefits


The additional benefits of working from home tend to be reduced stress, fewer risks associated with accidents or illnesses, and an overall reduction in traffic. During this holiday season, when many of us can't make it to work anyway, maybe it's time to sit back and consider whether the benefits of working at home are worth thinking about and worth implementing.


This is the time when many companies need to close the books, do last minute collections, make critical investments and/or important payments. Those companies on the East Coast that embraced the cloud and are working from home are getting these things done, and those that didn't aren't. Someday soon the only office you need may fit in the palm of your hand. It's definitely something to think about this holiday season.

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