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Long Live the Workplace
August 1, 2016

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Long Live the Workplace

When you combine today’s Knowledge Age with ever-evolving communication, digitalization and cloud-based options, there is really no limit to how, where and when professionals can work.

There once was a time when people went to an office to work. Travel was not an issue and only occasionally would you lug home paperwork that needed to be completed. This arrangement provided a clean separation of work and home life. Sure, you might go to work early or maybe arrive home late, but this was not the norm. How do I know? My father reminisces about those days. I also work with a team that lives it.

But for most, the concept of the office has become increasingly abstract. Think about it. Is your office your employer’s brick-and-mortar building? Is it an on-demand location where collaboration can take place? Is it a private space where concentration is valued? Or is it the site where work takes place independent of locale, time of day and physical human interaction?

The answer for the majority of knowledge workers today is that it is all of these and more. The workplace has evolved in many ways. So much so that even comic-strip character Dilbert and his fellow cubicle dwellers would not recognize it.

When you combine today’s Knowledge Age, where our product is expert content, with ever-evolving communication, digitalization and cloud-based options, there is really no limit to how, where and when professionals can work. After all, work is what we do. It’s not a place we go to.

Research by Global Workplace Analytics and Telework Research Network concludes that between 80% and 90% of us would like to telecommute at least part time. Their analysis also suggests that telecommuting two to three days per week seems to be the sweet spot for personal concentrative work and collaborative work. Here are just a few observations from their research, based on half-time telecommuting, annualized:

Employer benefits: Productivity increases 30% when people telecommute two to three days a week; real estate costs are cut by 20%; absenteeism decreases by four days; and turnover drops 25%. These findings translate to an annual savings of more than $10,000 per telecommuting employee per year.

Employee benefits: Commuting time decreases between 100 and 200 hours (the equivalent of between three and five work-weeks); direct travel costs are reduced by $1,000 to $3,500; and indirect expenses (lunch, coffee, clothes) decrease about $1,000 to $3,300. These translate to between $2,000 and $6,800 of out-of-pocket savings for the employee, plus commute-time savings.

Community benefits: Traffic congestion, greenhouse gases and traffic accident costs, injuries and deaths are all reduced; and less highway maintenance is needed.

A telecommuting-friendly office is a space conducive to either hotelling — where workers schedule their use of workspaces and other resources in advance — or to resource sharing, where two or more team members share a desk. Forward-looking organizations are deploying today’s easily available technology, which is removing most of the practical barriers for remote work. They have written a telecommuting policy so that workers are aware of their responsibilities and they have video cameras so that personal connections are enhanced by video conversations that include full body language. Finally, they have ensured that the telecommuter has a proper desk and chair at the remote location to ensure physical concerns are addressed.

If you do not have a telecommuting-friendly office, what are you waiting for? Share the concept and your intention and work with a couple of team members to figure out how best to transition your traditional office into a telecommuting space. Companies without remote workplace environments in place are already being left behind by excluding some of the best new talent entering the marketplace.

This post was originally published in CPA Magazine