Now Co-Workers Can Be Annoying From Home
Gone are the days when you could avoid co-workers by closing your office door or pretending to be on the phone. Now, using video technology, document drop software, and a combination of email, instant messaging and the old telephone, co-workers can be just as annoying from 3,000 miles away as they are from the next cubicle. The wonderful – or awful – world of telecommuting is upon us, warts and all.
Telecommuting, of course, refers to using technology to work virtually at a company. If most of your day is spent on the phone, answering emails and working on documents, then why travel all the way to an office building just so you can do those things in close proximity to others? Why waste the gas, or the time, in traffic? And if your employer can save the fixed costs of office space, utilities and supplies by having you NOT show up, doesn’t everyone win?
Turns out, more and more people are starting to think this is a win-win arrangement. While telecommuters make up about 10% of the professional workforce in emerging markets, the trend is just getting started in Western Europe and North America.
The recent economic crisis has caused companies to question every expense, no matter how small. Big, established companies began asking the same questions as small start-ups. Questions like, “Why are we spending money on that? Can we save a little here or there?”
A new emphasis on savings has changed the way employees, and more importantly employee work time, is viewed. As technology gets better and cheaper, office space looks more like a luxury. Of course, this comes with some drawbacks.
Not everyone is cut out to work on their own, which is the very nature of telecommuting. I once had an employee who tried working from home… He admitted quickly that the effort failed. He told me that, instead of boosting his productivity, the lack of managerial oversight allowed him to sit around in his pajamas most of the day, drinking beer. Obviously this person needs oversight.
Then there are the problems that arise on the other side of the fence… like employers that feel free to call telecommuters any time of the day or night, any day of the week. After all, if they work from home, then being at home is the same as being in the office, right?
But even with the drawbacks, telecommuting is an idea whose time has come. Employees can be more effective without time in traffic, they consume less fuel in general, they put fewer miles on their cars.
On the company side, there’s a cost reduction associated with allowing employees to work from home. This shows up in the form of real estate. Companies can now employ a laptop and some video equipment to take the place of a cubicle or a desk, saving the company money and offering it flexibility.
Of course, there are losers. Big banks should look on this telecommuting trend with trepidation. Back in the vault many banks are holding mortgages on commercial real estate. The value of that real estate is only as good as the rent payments of tenants.
In a world of shrinking corporate offices, there will be less demand for office space and, therefore, downward pressure on rents. This is a great time to be on the sidelines or even completely out of commercial real estate.
And, while many companies can and will benefit from this growing trend, I ask myself: do I really want a 22-year old working from home? I’m not a betting man, but I would lay down money that they’d spend most of their day on You Tube and Facebook instead of on developing the website I’m paying them to develop.
That doesn’t sound like a good idea to me…
P.S. The pending downturn in commercial real estate will simply drag the economy deeper into turmoil and hardship. As will the almost certain tax increases I mentioned to you yesterday. Many people will respond by trimming down their expenses. While that is a good move, it’s not enough. You need a step-by-step plan to prosper ahead. Get instant access to one here.