The Agile Workforce: A Company’s View

Telecommuting: The Disadvantages

An agile workforce includes workplace strategies for telecommuting, hoteling, desk sharing, open office, flexible work and wellness programs. Let’s start with telecommuting.

Each company builds its own culture. Employees need to feel as though they belong and are valued. One way to extend that is in onboarding in-house employees. It is easier to instill a strong company culture, which promotes employee engagement and positivity through an on-site team.

Financially, working out of an office location may cause more expense for purchasing equipment and software than is the case for in-house employees. And many are finding the much-needed face time something of the past. Actually being physically present at an office allows more collaboration and energy among each other. Some believe the energy, water-cooler talk, and casual exchange in an office setting often lead to new ideas.

The Holdbacks

Telework is not for everyone making the idea of having a total agile workforce unobtainable. For some, social needs must be addressed. Also, the telecommuter must be self-directed, comfortable with technology, and have a defined home office space. Some employees are afraid of the “out of sight, out of mind” issue with the performance-based measurement systems and other attitudes to working outside the company location. You’ll need to build in regular communications and occasional face-to-face meetings with your traditional coworkers to find career impact is a not an issue for your teleworkers.

Telecommuting does cost a company; however, the U.S. General Services Administration estimates a cost of $16M to provide a basic teleworker at-home solution for 50,000 telecommuters can be offset through more than $36M in benefits of the same period. These are large numbers, so in smaller scenarios we found that in 2006, GSA reported an employer’s average first year cost per teleworker was $1,000.

Security and IT infrastructure are a challenge, but changes can be made to address and overcome the issue. Ninety percent of the security issues are not from the home workers but more with the traditional employee who lacks the training, tools and technologies that teleworkers receive. IT has to be in place to enable the commuting work. Off-the-shelf solutions exist to support all companies, no matter the size.

Finally, what happens in the legal field regarding employment law and OSHA concerns? A few recent accidents in the homes of teleworkers have raised concerns about employer liability. Also, the inability to monitor employee overtime and overcoming the trust matters are issues.

The Uncommon Advantages

You know the most common advantages for the companies who establish agile work programs, improving family life and employee stress, but do you know the advantages it has on our communities?

Telecommuting reduces our foreign oil dependence. Based on our current numbers of telecommuters, even part-time telework could reduce gulf oil imports by 45%, per year; that’s a savings of 281 million barrels of oil, worth $22 billion in oil imports. Of course this lends to slowing global warming by reducing our carbon footprint; these same telecommuters would reduce emissions by more than 51 million metric tons each year, along with other savings from reduced office energy, infrastructure repairs, business travel and having paper usage replaced with electronic documents.

The HR Policy: do you have one?

This topic deserves a separate article in weeks to come: having a mobile policy today is a must for the Gen Y & Z workforce. In our research we found that nearly two-thirds of companies have remote workers today, yet only half have a telecommuting policy.

Why? Because the past shows telecommuting would start informally where someone requested to work from home for a short period of time, manager said yes and nothing was formalized. Then the ripple effect happened with others requesting and receiving approvals. All is good until a problem happens with no company policy in place. Unfortunately, not all employees are completely trustworthy, and you’ll need to have certain standards for your company in place before you find yourself facing disgruntled employees with a varying understanding of what telework involves.

Four areas to consider adding to your policy, which we’ll dive deeper into these soon, include childcare, flexibility, equipment and space/location.

If your workplace is changing and you find your current buildings to be technology inefficient or not sized appropriately, then please give me a call. I can help.


Research and Data from Global Workplace Analytics