Monday, August 17, 2009

Living in a Distributed World

Remember the paperless office? That was a hyped trend of the future, based someone in the 1970s. I know that hasn't happened yet, because I spent a weekend earlier this month, cleaning out old papers from my office. (It's been two weeks, and I've been able to maintain a low-paper office.)

In the early 90s, came the officeless office. In other words, companies tried to reduce their costs by "hoteling" office space for their sales force, who were out on the road most of the time, and only occasionally needed to work from a corporate office. "Hoteling" referred to the fact that these always-on-the-road employees would reserve space in the corporate office when they needed to come in from the cold.

The officeless office, however, has evolved, with " third of the more than 150 million working Americans telecommute at least occasionally," according a Wired article, "Home Sweet Office: Telecommute Good for Business, Employees, and Planet," Branden Koerner.

Here are some interesting facts about telecommuting:
  • Only 40 percent of companies permit any sort of work-at-home arrangement, which means most insist on full-time attendance.
  • According to a 2006 survey by the Telework Exchange, the top fear among resisters is that they'll lose control of their employees.
  • Researchers from Penn State analyzed 46 studies of telecommuting conducted over two decades and covering almost 13,000 employees. Their sweeping inquiry concluded that working from home has "favorable effects on perceived autonomy, work-family conflict, job satisfaction, performance, turnover intent, and stress." The only demonstrable drawback is a slight fraying of the relationships between telecommuters and their colleagues back at headquarters — largely because of jealousy on the part of the latter group.
  • An IDC report from Asia found that 81 percent of managers believe telecommuting improves productivity, up from 61 percent in 2005. The increase is attributable largely to the proliferation of unified communications technologies — tools that connect mobile and remote workers. These include products like LifeSize Express, the first hi-def videoconferencing system priced at less than $5,000, as well as Web-based services like Google Docs and Glance, which let users view a remote colleague's onscreen work in real time (in the case of Glance, with cursor movements and all).
Interesting facts to support telecommuting -- which we believe is the wave of the future, that more companies will embrace remote workers to improve their costs as the tools improve to enable us to collaborate more.

Also interesting is an article from BusinessWeek that looks at the impact of stimulus funds on pushing broadband service into rural areas, "A High-Speed Race for Broadband Billions: Companies are jostling for the stimulus spending earmarked to deliver faster Internet to rural America" by Rachael King.

In a sidebar, King notes "for every one-point increase in the percent of U.S. households with broadband, nearly 300,000 jobs will be added to the economy." That's significant!

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