How has working virtually improved or impacted your businesses overall productivity?
For many people an office space is key to being productive and happy at work. Generally, some one has put thought into everything, your chair will be ergonomic, the air temperature will remain between 68-74 degrees (a cooler employee is a more productive one), your office will contain a certain number of green plants, and your overall mood should be calmed by the flow of the office space. In larger organizations, you will have perks, a free coffee machine, an in house gym, your bank in the building; many even offer dry cleaners in house. All of these are tremendous perks designed to make you happy and there by more productive. Closer personal contact to your teams should improve your working relationships, unless your teams are stressed out ladder climbing and back stabbers in which case you should seek to find another job not another place from which to do it. So why after putting so much time and money into planning your working hours why are so many companies now looking to let you free to do what you want from where you want. Personally, I think it comes down to one thing, delivery. If you deliver your work on time and up to quality, then why should it matter how well aligned your chair keeps your spine, or if god forbid your preferred temperature is 79 degrees. Most people commute an hour each way, on average, that’s 10 hours a week, or 40 hours a month. That’s an extra work week lost each month to commuting. That’s a stress-filled hour before you hit your yoga inspired, green plant filled, java-brewing oasis. And another stress filled hour that you get before returning to your castle and its hungry inhabitants. A week of your life each month in what most see as constant stress. Now why are offices built to be oases? Well to combat stress of-course, a stressed out worker is an unproductive worker on his way to burnout. What most companies are realizing now is that removing the non-job stress can also improve job performance far more than a productivity-inspired environment. The benefits to happiness of working from home can be untold, as long as years of stress haven’t taken their toll on the home environment. Nevertheless, there could I suspect be a guilty pleasure of getting on that all so important conference call in pj’s, after all it has been said that no glamorous people get dressed before noon. Personally, I wear a full suit everyday whether in my office or my home environment workspace. I urge people to do video conferences to keep “personal” contact and I make sure deadlines are met. Like most managers I care for results, but as a former philosopher I can’t help but think that the means to the end are as important as the end itself, and just as an extra weeks commute each week is detrimental to ones performance, so too is a work week a month in pajamas. Businesses are built on the energy people bring to them, and as energy exists in time and place, it is often crucial to have all your energies come together in place at the same time, but not everyday. I stress location independence because I seek to engage people who are excellent enough to know what needs to be done when and have the discipline to do it, whether they are at the beach, on the slopes, or at their cubicle. Do all klobe’s people wear suits everyday, of course, not, they are not me nor should they be.
What do you think are some of the personal advantages of telecommuting over a traditional office environment?
Personally, I have chosen to be locational independent. I like being able to get what I need done from anywhere. It works for me, and yes, if I am working I am wearing a suit. Why? Because that choice works for me.
Should more companies look into telecommuting as a way to save money and be more green?
Telecommuting can make companies greener; it keeps carbon from being released into the atmosphere. It can save money if they rotate hot desks, not needing extra office space. And for many meetings videoconferences are just as good as face-to-face.
What advice would you give for companies who are looking to allow there employees to work virtually from home?
Monitor. Not everyone has the self-discipline to work from home; many people just don’t have the discipline not to watch Springer or Oprah just because they can. Again, these may not be the people you want in your organization long term and their performance will suffer. But if you had a high caliber candidate that is now under performing because their Shitzu that they never had the time to train is constantly seeking their attention, rather than letting them go, bring them back in. I suggest that a rep from the company come and insure that each person has a designated work area, and that family members know not to disrupt them while at work. Your clients don’t care about your policies and a screaming baby or a barking husky can kill the flow of an important meeting. These things happen, so be ready and find a quite place. It can be things as small as landscapers, most companies schedule landscaping during out of office hours, people do the same- they are called working hours. A jackhammer, a lawn mower, or chain saw can make for a difficult work environment. Also working from home means working, I had an employee that would take all his team calls from a bus, his car, or from the street. He would sometimes forget to mute the call, and after a few times we started to question where this guy was always going at 10 am. Working remotely is not for everyone, I have found that some people need an office to actually get things done, and when let to their own devices they lead themselves to their corporate demise.
How has telecommuting affected your online and social media management?
Telecommuting makes chat and alternative reality relationships all the more important. For younger employees it can also be the end of their careers, remember if you tweet about Oprah on a Tuesday, chances are you were watching Oprah on Tuesday. Basically if you wouldn’t do it at work even if you wish you could be don’t do it when you telecommute.