"The time has come", the guru said, "to speak of many
things. Of oil reserves, and SUVs and why we can't grow wings." -- Read
article by Jack Nilles.
The Halo effect
Dec 14th 2005, The Economist
Jeffrey Katzenberg's latest venture: videoconferencing that actually
works. Just as the firm he set up with two other Hollywood moguls
was being sold to Paramount, Jeffrey Katzenberg announced a new venture: a
high-end videoconferencing system developed by DreamWorks Animation in
partnership with Hewlett-Packard.
In an effort to cut down on travel and boost productivity, Mr Katzenberg
looked into videoconferencing in 2001 and found it clunky, unreliable and
fiddly. S o he asked his boffins to devise their own system. They
teamed up with HP and the result, launched this week, is called Halo. Each
Halo room costs $550,000 to create, and includes four high-definition
plasma screens. The lighting, camera angles, wall-colour, acoustics
and furniture are all designed to make two Halo systems feel like a single
room when linked together, and to do away with the 15 minutes of messing
around usually required to set up videoconferencing gear.
HP manages the service, which costs $18,000 a room each month, and runs
the high-speed network that ensures natural, delay-free conversations.
"It's designed to create Œas though you were there' collaboration," says
Mr Katzenberg. Instead of travelling to his office in Britain every
three weeks, he now goes every four months. Halo is, in short, the
videoconferencing equivalent of flying in the corporate jet.
DreamWorks now has nine Halo rooms, HP has 13, Advanced Micro Devices has
two and PepsiCo has five. Procter & Gamble and Novartis have also
signed up. HP hopes to sell more than 100 Halo systems next year.
Users say that while previous videoconferencing equipment was rarely used,
their Halo rooms are in use around the clock. Hector Ruiz, boss of AMD,
says Halo has cut travel between his firm's facilities in California and
Texas. Steve Reinemund, boss of PepsiCo, says that every chief
executive to whom he has shown the system has decided to buy it, too.
Indeed, chief executives are proving an unexpectedly potent marketing
tool. How appropriate that videoconferencing should be sold by word
The Atlanta experience
A piece of news from 'the lists'
A law firm, corrections department and manufacturing company are among
13 Atlanta employers to take part in a unique telework initiative that
offered free consulting services and even reimbursed employers for certain
monies spent getting their telework programs off the ground.
The group behind the initiative is Clean Air Campaign, a non-profit
organisation that works with Georgia companies, government and schools to
help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.
In its latest telework program, Clean Air Campaign in partnership with
an LA-based telework consultant provided participating companies with
consulting services and additional reimbursement funds for staff time
spent developing and implementing a six-month telework pilot. In return,
participating companies had to commit to creating or expanding their
As of July 2005 the program - called Telework Leadership Initiative - had
spawned 1,800 new teleworkers in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Clean Air
Campaign reports. (A further 500 had started telework by April
The group points out that employees aren't the only ones who benefit
from teleworking. Employers, too, stand to gain - in particular when
employees log extra hours of work time on days they telecommute.
Clean Air Campaign surveyed participants and found teleworkers save an
average of 107 minutes each day they telework by not commuting - and most
often that time goes right back to the employer. More than 70% of
respondents said they typically use the extra time to do more work.
"The findings from this survey really dispel the myth that telework is
only a benefit to employees," said Ellen Macht, executive director of
Clean Air Campaign, in a statement. "In each of the 13 pilot programs, the
employer reported significant bottom-line benefits, including increased
productivity, improved morale and even savings on office space."
Among the program findings:
- Teleworking improves morale.
Almost 90% of teleworkers reported improved morale due to teleworking, and
80% of managers agreed that staff morale was up as a result of
teleworking. More than 65% of teleworkers said they're less likely to look
for another job as long as they can telework, and more than 45% of
managers feel that teleworking gives the employer a competitive edge.
- Productivity doesn't suffer. More
than 80% of workers reported no problems getting their work competed while
teleworking, and 74% reported an increase in their productivity. On the
managers' side, 85% reported that productivity increased (by an average of
about 20%) or stayed the same. In addition, 91% of managers said that work
quality was not hurt by teleworking, and 52% of managers said supervising
teleworkers took no more time than supervising non-teleworkers.
- Technology is key. Participating
companies invested or improved their computer technology, remote-access,
and telephone systems. Companies with good remote access options found it
easy to transition to a greater frequency of teleworking, according to
Clean Air Campaign.
- Execution matters. Among the
lessons participating companies learned is that telework training for
employees and managers makes a difference, as does selecting the right
employees for teleworking and having solid management buy-in. Formalising
existing programs allowed organisations to increase participation, the
Perhaps the most telling finding is that all 13 participants plan to
continue and expand their telework programs. Each manager, on average,
plans to allow four more employees to telework. At current levels, these
teleworkers will reduce more than 10 million vehicle miles from
metro Atlanta roads each year, Clean Air Campaign estimates.
Telework consultant Shirazi said the Telework Leadership Initiative is
the most successful telework pilot program she's seen in the U.S. today.
She credits the success of the program to the resources participants
received: "Much of the success is due to two things: providing a
one-stop-shop approach for the creation of the programs, as well as
the fact that there are better technology tools available - for less money
Who was first?
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a long history of
workplace innovation. In fact, it employed the first federal teleworker in
the nation. Back in 1854, Clara Barton (who later founded the American Red
Cross) clerked in the Patent Office. The first woman to hold such a
position, she often worked from home to avoid criticism of her presence in
And the USPTO is now taking the concept much further. In 1997,
the Trademark Office began an experimental telework pilot for 18 trademark
attorneys. Dubbed Trademark Work at Home (TW@H), the program now includes
110 trademark attorneys who work at home from three to four days per week.
This represents over 50% of the qualified pool. In July of 2001, the
Patent Office launched its Work-at-Home pilot. It currently supports 318
patent attorneys working at home one day a week. PTO's telework
program has several goals, including employee retention, facilities
savings and improved productivity.
Is Technology important?
Research in the
United States showed that advanced technology and its usage has very
little role to play in telework. Those who think telework will require
expensive and complex technology are not likely to realise the benefits
that the telework strategy can provide.
According to a 1994 report produced by
the Telecommuting Advisory Council, a nationwide US body, only 800,000
telecommuters (8.8% of all telecommuters) used electronic mail in the
course of their daily work and only 1.4 million used data file transfers
on a daily basis. the same report showed that the number of telecommuters
in the US rose from 7.6 million in 1993 to 9.1 million in 1994; that the
average telecommuter was 37.8 years old; 86% were married; 76% were in
two-income families; 42% had children under 18; 23% had children under 6;
and 55% were university graduates.
These findings are of critical
importance for New Zealand businesses.
Too many New Zealand managers believe
that telework will need sophisticated technological solutions. With the
active support of some sectors of the information technology industry,
they are encouraged to consider significant IT investments as part of
their telework implementation. As a result, the telework programme never
gets off the ground.
The Americans appear to understand this.
That 8.3 million (1994) telecommuters (91.2% of all telecommuters) in the
States do not use electronic mail on a daily basis shows just how
irrelevant they think the technology is.
What's Logic got to do with it?
Efficiency and effectiveness, in most
cases, can not be logically deduced from the location at which the work is
traditionally (or currently) performed. This might appear paradoxical at first glance but consider:
The fact is that it is not the location of people,
computer technology, or specific files and information that is important
most of the time -– providing you have access to them when needed. This
access is not usually guaranteed even when you are in the same
location. But it is the access that is critical. In many instances, the
access will be easier from a remote setting –- for a start, you tend to
organise your access to the resources you need better if you are going to
outside the office for any length of time.
Efficiency and effectiveness is generally deduced from
the access you have to the resources you need to perform your task -– not
the location of these resources.
Most of us can find 20% or more of the working week when
we do not require access to the traditional resources found in an office
(files, people, computers and other technology). Twenty percent of the
working week is a day, a day that could more productively be spent working
in another location.
So where’s the logic
in travelling to town every day, every week, all year long?
Now here's a thought: "Work is
some thing you do, not some place you go." It
comes from the Underground Guide to Telecommuting,
published in 95, and was quoted on Gil Gordon's web site
recently. Logic suggests that the phrase is probably very
accurate (or ought to be) and this same logic then leads
to the conclusion that much of the modern work
environment needs to be seriously rethought.
I am aware that logic does not always
provide an absolute frame of reference. But it can lead
to useful new perspectives perhaps?
And to demonstrate just how effective (or
not) logic can be, its worth remembering how many
bad ideas weve had over the years:
Yes, there have been many bad ideas
over the years or have there? Will telework be the
next bad idea? Will it fail as badly as the Beetles did?
What's so great about normality anyway?
In their attempts to increase the
profitability of their businesses, many managers apply traditional, or
‘normal’, strategies to overcome problems. Unfortunately, normal
approaches don't always solve the real problem. In fact, in many cases
they make it worse.
Smart, motivated employees are now critical to most
businesses and it is possible to view many of the expenses of business as
the direct result of attempts to make employment attractive to such
employees. The crunch, however, is that these expenses only treat the
symptoms and not the real problem: bright, educated employees are smart
enough to realise that there are sensible alternatives to working in
offices every day of the week. Furthermore, many valuable employees have
dependants who require support or have given a better lifestyle a higher
priority than their career.
Smart people don't enjoy
'normal', or traditional work environments
In other words the kind of employees most employers want
to recruit and retain don't really want to work in normal offices, at
Most employers react by improving the employment
package, a normal reaction, but the crunch is that most improvements (e.g.
the company car) will not make the office more attractive. A company car
will increase the cost of doing business, require employees to sit in
traffic jams (which will get worse), require parking spaces at the office,
but won't make the job or the office any more attractive. It would make a
lot more sense to replace the offer of a company car with the offer of a
home office -– or something similar.
There are many examples of this Normality Crunch:
Normality can be
For many enterprises, the normal way of doing business
imposes mounting costs and inconveniences on staff and company alike.
Companies end up paying to remedy the problem they are paying to create.
It is apparent that the normal way of doing business is no longer the
smart way to do business.
Note: The Normality Crunch was originally
expressed by Ellen Goodman, Washington Post columnist, published in
the Weekly Guardian, in the following words: "Is normality getting
dressed in the clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic jams
in the car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that
you need so you can pay for the clothes, the car, and especially, the
house that you leave empty all day in order to live in it?"
Some thoughts about Teamwork
Teamwork is often cited as a
major reason why telework wont work. Is it a real
problem? Of course it is. People do need to meet
colleagues, discuss ideas, agree on action plans, and so
on. And this still works much better in face-to-face
environments. But there are three observations that could
First, Professor William Schmidt
(California) once wrote that telework was critical to the
success of Total Quality Management (TQM) programmes. TQM
often seems to involve a lot of intense meetings,
brainstorming for example. Such interaction often negates
the ability of people to actually do the work, to act on
the decisions made. Quiet time is essential, away from
the talk and this is best gained off-site, in his
Second, what concept of team
best describes what happens in your enterprise? Do your
teams work like a Rugby scrum with everyone
training and playing together, all the time? Do your
teams work like an orchestra, practising solo (or in
smaller groups) and coming together to produce great
music when required? Or do they work like a commando
squad with a common objective and action plan but
totally independent individual actions, out of sight of
each other most of the time?
Which form of team is the most
effective? (Telework is only impossible in the first
Third, what is the most
efficient form of face-to-face contact for your teams?
Totally unstructured and distracting on-going meetings,
or formal gatherings with agendas, minutes, etc. The
latter is generally considered the best option and
telework makes it easier. If some staff are likely to be
away from the office tomorrow, todays meeting must
be effective and productive there can be no
informal follow-up (in person). This is perhaps another
version of Prof. Schmidts comments but telework can
make your internal meetings and communication systems
much more effective (and less time-consuming).
Commuting and offices are
Take a German study recently published in the New
England Journal of Medicine that found people caught in traffic are three
times more likely to suffer a heart attack within one hour than those who
aren't. The study, based on interviews with 691 people who'd suffered a
heart attack from 1999 to 2001, found women and those over 60 at highest
But get this: While heart attacks were found to be 2.6 times more
common for people stuck in cars, they were 3.1 times more common for those
taking public transportation, and 3.9 times
greater for cyclists. So much for biking to work. For the BBC
News article that reported it, see this
Then there's the Oct. 19 Wall Street Journal story ("Seeing the Light
About Daylight") that argues modern office buildings keep workers sunlight
starved. A 2003 study of office worker performance by the California
Energy Commission found exposure to daylight was consistently linked with
a higher level of concentration and better short-term memory. Moreover, a
1999 study by Pacific Gas & Electric of 108 retail stores found those with
skylights had 40% higher sales. The article also cited studies
proving good views increase productivity. Employees with good views
processed calls 7% to 12% faster than those without, reported better
health conditions and "feelings of well being," while their counterparts
reported higher fatigue. Another study cited found computer programmers
with good views spent 15% more time on their primary task, while those
without spent 15% more time talking on the phone or to colleagues.
Last, the article cites Dutch research that found "a significant
percentage of sick leave was linked to complaints about the quality of the
workplace," and a healthy indoor climate lead to a 2.5% drop in
absenteeism. Of course, the idea here is teleworkers have more
control over things like sunlight, views and air quality - at least those
who don't work in the basement.
Auto Emissions Killing Thousands
by Julio Godoy (Published on Thursday, June 3, 2004 by
PARIS - Unrestrained consumption of fossil fuels is killing tens of
thousands of people in Europe, new studies say. In France alone
automobile emissions kill up to 10,000 people per year, a report by the
Agency for Health and Environmental Safety (AFSSE after its French name)
Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and by independent
environmental groups in other European countries have come to similarly
alarming conclusions. The report says six to 11 percent of all lung
cancer cases identified in people above 30 years of age in France are
caused by automobile emissions. This represents 1,713 deaths a year,
it says. The AFSSE estimates that seven percent of all cases of
cardio- respiratory diseases are caused by automobile emissions,
representing 4,876 deaths a year on present mortality averages.
The AFSSE report says such pollution kills 9,513 people a year in
France. In a report covering Austria, Switzerland and France, WHO
found that some 40,000 people die every year as a result of automobile
emissions or particulate matter (PM) in scientific jargon...
... so why are most of us still fighting our way into the office each
Australia had a workforce of 9 million in June 2000, according to the
Australian Bureau of Statistics' Labour Force Survey. Of the 8.6 million
people at work during the week of the study, almost 7.5 million were
employees, yet only 224,000 of those employees "mainly" worked at home.
Separate ABS research found that about 430,000 employees spent at least
some of their working life at home in 2000 through "an agreement with
their employer". A spike in 2001 saw this figure hit 555,000 but more than
half of these gains were lost last year as the figure slumped to 480,000.
How many of these people could be classified as telecommuters is hard
to say but less than half of them used a portable computer at home or
accessed their employer's computer system.
So in this land of the laid-back lifestyle, why have fewer than 250,000
of Australia's 9 million workers embraced the dream of telecommuting? ...
This useful article goes on to discuss a number of the issues
associated with telework, and to provide a couple of case studies.
Working from Near Home: you too can have it all
- A personal view from Stephen J Bradley,
Synopsis: What is behind our desire to
work from home? What do we really mean by home? Can we get control of
our work-life balance and yet avoid isolation?
[This article provides an introduction to one form of
telecentre. We have a great deal more information on this subject
and can help you set up your pilot.]
Amongst several recent surveys on
work-life issues, the 4th Annual Quality of Working Life Report produced
by The Institute of Management and UMIST showed evidence of mounting
resistance by UK managers to "long hours culture". 32% of the respondees
considered home as being more important than work, compared with 25%
back in 1997. The consistent theme in attitudes to work-life balance is
the desire of individuals to regain control: of time, of outlook, of
personal space, etc. The most tangible distress to many is the
frustration and de-humanisation through lack of control that
characterises much big-city commuting.
The UK Government (Dept. for Education
and Employment - DfEE) has launched a two year national initiative
called The Work-Life Balance Challenge Fund. Some 20 management
consultancies have been accredited to provide expert advice in the
implementation of sound Work-Life Balance employment projects.
The most frequently cited negative aspect
of working from home is "isolation" from colleagues, peers, and the
staples of healthy communal life: exchanging news and views, receiving
and giving a welcoming smile and an occasional laugh. If working from
home is occasional and elective, such isolation is more likely to be
positive than negative. However, isolation can become a major negative
for those spending significant periods of time away from corporate
offices in pursuit of a better work-life balance.
Happily, the desire for social contact in
working life does not have to involve maintenance of communal bonds
through real-time, face-to-face, hand-to-hand contact between people on
the same payroll in the same central office. Nor, at the opposite
extreme, does it require sophisticated telecommunications networking
from home. There is a middle way. Pioneered by "free-agents" in liberal
professions, some people have found that they can have the best of all
worlds through using shared workspace near their homes. Whether
corporate employee or free-agent, they can gain control of their time
and space plus communal contact within shared workspace in their own
neighbourhood, used as a base from which to travel or to make forays in
to central corporate sites from time to time. ...
Executive Works could be key in helping Fed meet telework goals
By Toni Kistner of Network World
While it might come as a surprise to some, the Washington, D.C., area is
poised to become telework central. Two mandates give it little choice,
and the clock is ticking.
In the private sector, the Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) set
the pace in April 2000 by declaring that 20% of the region's workforce
must engage in telework one or more days a week by 2005.
The government upped the ante soon after by passing a law. Section
359 of the Department of Transportation appropriations bill, signed into
law in October 2000, mandates that within six months "25% of the federal
workforce eligible to telework do to the maximum extent possible without
diminished employee performance." The percentage is to increase an
additional 25% per year thereafter.
The numbers of workers involved are staggering. If you include the
military and postal service, the federal government alone employees 6
million people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most,
however, cite numbers in the 2 million range. The Office of
Personnel Management (OPM) puts the number at 1.7 million; 25% of which
is 425,000 people.
No matter how you slice it, as we head into 2002, the goals are far from
being met. At last count in 2000, an OPM survey reveals that of the 1.7
million federal employees counted, 45,298 (2.6%) teleworked (either from
home or a telework center) at least one day per week.
But then again, the language is slippery. Who's eligible? And what
constitutes "diminished employee performance?" And will teleworking one
day per week (52 times per year) significantly impact road congestion
and air pollution? Is this lip service or is the fed serious about
sending workers home?
To find out what's keeping the numbers so low, the Government Accounting
Office released a report in September outlining the telework barriers
facing federal agencies. As expected, management concerns ranked first.
Managers continue to struggle with which positions are suitable and how
to ensure workers perform in a telework environment marked by limited
The problem is our traditional management philosophy, says John Stewart,
CEO of Executive Works, a virtual company that's developed Office Pilot,
an enterprise wide management system that's caught Washington's eye.
Executive Works is founded on a new way of managing people, one that
emphasizes coaching over managing and can be applied to large numbers of
employees, whether they're in the office or working remotely.
"Telework will never work unless styles of management - and the mindset
- changes. The truth is, people aren't being managed now," Stewart says.
"If a person is competent and producing, he needs to be directed, not
managed. Today, managers need to be leaders and coaches."
Briefly, Office Pilot is a Web-based, activities management system that
places a "dash panel" on the bottom of workers' PC screens that helps
managers and employees monitor productivity. Color coded and graphical,
the system enables workers to break down and analyze their jobs into
tasks, or "cycles of action" that they can prioritize, a concept that
could be key to rolling out large numbers of remote workers.
Managers can view reports from the highest to the most granular levels.
The system provides instant messaging and video presentation modules;
e-mail integration and strategic and tactical planning, action, task and
project planning modules are coming soon.
veteran business consultant and former military man, Stewart has been
courting Washington agencies and says his company is on the verge of
inking big deals with Titan Systems, Computer Sciences Corporation and
Franklin Covey, which will resell the product to federal agencies and
"We went to the federal government because there's a vacuum of knowledge
and strong demand to get it done. Telework is coming, there's no
question. And with the advent of Sept. 11, there's more interest to make
it happen, but the government doesn't know how to make it happen," he
More than just the mindset, the fed's definition of telework needs to
change, too, Stewart says, "Sending someone home once a week isn't
virtual officing. We've talked to agencies about sending people home for
good, and they're excited. They're reaching harder than industry and I
think they're going set the pace."
If the fed does embrace Stewart's ideas and deploys Office Pilot in
large numbers, it could find itself with a solution to another long
standing problem - employee turnover. "There are places in the country
that have competent people living there that would work for the
government and do a good job at a local competitive wage," Stewart says.
"If you look at all of that, you see what's been missing in telework.
Companies have been trying to launch telework programs when they should
be doing enterprise-wide management."
When managers say no
By Jeff Zbar
Since 1998, The Boeing Company has had a formal
telework program. Almost 4,000 of the company's 198,000 employees
participate worldwide. But what happens when a Boeing employee asks to
telework but his manager says no?
It all falls back on the telework policy, says John
Uhrich, program manager for Boeing's Virtual Office Program.
"Each organization [within Boeing] implements telework
in a way that makes sense to them," Ulrich explains. "Our telework
policy puts the ball back in the manager's court and allows the local
team to use telework as a tool for flexibility."
Just as managers and reports have the freedom to
deviate from the policy in terms of eligibility, criteria and other
requirements, managers who are reticent about allowing an employee to
have a telework arrangement can put the kibosh on such a request.
Even though the word of Boeing managers is golden,
they still need to explain the reason for denying a telework request. If
the worker's performance has been inconsistent in the office setting or
projects have been delivered late, for instance, and the manager
believes things won't improve in a remote environment, that's just
Other legitimate reasons are based on how telework
will impact the team's productivity. Will remote work negatively affect
the worker's participation or involvement with the team, other
employees, or internal or external customers? If an upcoming project
will require a lot of face-time that could be a good reason to forestall
a department telework initiative, Uhrich says.
Before requesting telework, Boeing employees are
encouraged to visit the company intranet site to conduct a
self-assessment. Is the job conducive to telework? Has the
employee demonstrated a track record as well as personal and
professional traits that would make the manager comfortable with a
Managers are also encouraged to be open minded about
the benefits of telework and to visit the site's "If it's not
working..." page to learn about handling telework gone bad.
"Address the issue head-on," Uhrich says. "Bottom
line: If you're not comfortable with an employee teleworking for any
reason, be honest about the reason. Make it a positive way to bring out
performance issues and give the employee a chance to regain your trust."
(This piece was drawn from a free e-newsletter from
Who pays to Telework?
a Network World columnist. (As many will not have seen Jeff's
writing, we reprint this article as a free service. For more
information please go to
Executives have heard for
years how telework can cut a company's expenses. Real estate and
infrastructure costs drop as the need for offices, phone lines, utilities
and even support staff is diminished as workers are sent home to work.
But does that mean the company can
send teleworkers home to fend for themselves?
Siemens Enterprise Networks realized
early on that dispatching its workforce to home offices required a
sizeable investment to ensure the workers were productive and professional
- even when not in a corporate work environment.
Several years ago, when Siemens sent
100 of its employees home to telework full time, the company bankrolled
much of the cost. It provided a Dell Latitude laptop computer, a
Hewlett-Packard multifunction fax, printer, scanner and copier, a shredder
for security, and a Siemens Gigaset desktop phone with accompanying
Teleworkers were given a $300
allowance for a desk of each worker's choosing, and Siemens shipped to
each residence an ergonomic chair, says Janice Serendi, quality systems
representative for Vista (or Virtual Implementation Support Team
Advantage), a group of project managers and software designers who
remotely manage projects.
If they need light in the workspace,
employees could purchase and expense back a work lamp. Then as now,
teleworkers can expense any supplies they need on an ongoing basis, and
they receive $50 per month for utilities such as electric and heating fuel
tacked onto their paychecks, Serendi says.
Then as now, employees are
reimbursed for the cost of a dedicated business line as well as any
long-distance business calls made on the private line, and their Internet
connection - whether it's a dial-up, ISDN, DSL or cable modem. If they
need a cellular phone, they get a company discount through provider
Verizon Wireless. Again, costs are expensed back to the company, approved
by management, and the amount is added to the teleworker's paycheck.
To ensure the computer and network
access remain safe, employees are provided firewalls and antivirus
software, and can visit corporate offices for courses on a variety of
software applications. Every 2 years, teleworkers receive new laptops as
part of a companywide technology replacement program.
In most instances, the employer
provides the tools for telework, says telework consultant Gil Gordon.
They're no different than traditional office hardware; they're just
located in a worker's home office. In some cases, employers can let
workers take furniture scheduled for replacement, or computer hardware
from the office itself - especially if the worker is headed home to work
full-time and will no longer need an in-office PC.
"It's viewed as providing the tools
of the workplace wherever it happens to be," Gordon says.
Anything else is up to the employee,
Serendi says. Family members are not permitted to access the Siemens
network, Internet connection or laptop. Serendi's husband, for example,
has another computer in the home equipped with its own Internet access.
The benefits to Siemens come from
the professionalism of its workers, Serendi says. Having the company foot
the cost for telework tools helps the workers feel the company takes the
arrangement seriously. Workers can focus on serving their clients and
customers, without the concerns of an entrepreneur or business owner who
must justify expenses that usually are the employer's responsibility.
"I thought this was great that this
wasn't going to cost me anything out of my pocket. Most [employees] feel
this is a very fair allowance," says Serendi, who has used this largess to
equip her home office in Connecticut. "I don't see anything else that the
company could do for us."
From a Network World email news
Jeff Zbar is an author and speaker on
telework, free agency, and small or home office (SOHO) issues. His books
include Safe@Home: Seven Keys to Home Office Security (FirstPublish, 2001)
and Your Profitable Home Business Made E-Z (Made E-Z Products, 2000). Jeff
works from home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Questions or comments? Write him
Join the Club: The sweatshop days are ending
13.07.2001 -- The
For many the workplace is no longer a single location, nor work a single
function. Work is what you have to do and the workplace is wherever you
happen to be.
The majority of people still travel to a
specific place, a factory, an office, a hospital or a shop, do their work
and then go home. But the tiny minority of people who carried their work
about with them, plumbers, commercial travellers, authors, actors, is now
a substantial minority.
Add in those that go to a single workplace,
but also work at home or on the road, and perhaps a quarter of the
workforce is doing some work outside the normal workplace.
The shift in work patterns is partly a
function of technology, but it also reflects the changing nature of work
and company organisation, the outsourcing, the greater use of part-timers
The development of office space will be
confined by the fact that the most expensive real estate of a city is
devoted to buildings that are used for only about 10 hours a day.
Looking ahead, the only sensible assumption
is that these trends will intensify, so what are the implications for the
workplace? One shift, spotted by author Charles Handy, is that the office
is becoming a club.
The point about a club is not that people go
to meet each other, but that space is functional, not personal. There is a
reading room, a restaurant and a games room, but no offices for particular
Over the past five years, thanks mostly to
the internet, a second shift has taken place, the use of the home as a
Now anyone with a PC can gather as much
information as a multinational with a research department, and the demand
for creative rather than production skills means that more work can be
done at home.
But most still need the sense of community
that "going out to work" gives and employers are finding that creating
efficient and pleasant workplaces helps in recruiting and staff retention,
so when the workplace is not actually a club, it needs to pretend that it
Go back five years and firms were
experimenting with offices that had no personal space. The most successful
example was Anderson Consulting, now Accenture. Its pioneering offices are
like expensive hotels: there is a concierge, a cafe and an entertainment
area for clients. Staff book rooms for meeting or working by the day or
half-day. All space is functional, not personal. Service and technology
substitute for floor space.
The full "hotel model" has not been widely
imitated, but elements are being incorporated into offices.
Personal space is continuing to be squeezed,
but services are being added. Instead of offices being designed to impress
the chairman's visitors, they are being designed to improve staff
How might this trend develop? First,
workplaces will be designed with the view that many workers will be
occasional visitors: they will be there for maybe a couple of days a week,
not the whole time. So the proportion of functional space will rise,
relative to personal space.
Second, companies will make their workspace
available to non-staff: freelancers, employees of customers and suppliers,
day-workers and so on. By providing a club atmosphere, they will seek to
bind in the loyalty of these associated workers.
Third, workspaces will become nicer. It is
cheaper to make people happy by creating an efficient and friendly
workspace, than by paying them more.
Fourth, expect the new communications
technologies to continue to be substituted for space: the cost of
technology is coming down, and the cost of space is going up. So the
workplace of the future will be smaller and neater as well as nicer.
Homes, by contrast, will become larger as they turn into factories as well
as places to live.
And finally there will be a boom in
well-located workplaces created specifically for itinerant workers. You
can see this already in hotels and airport lounges: expect this trend to
go much further, so that every city centre will have workplaces that
anyone can pay to use, rather like upmarket internet cafes.
Getting to know you
By Jeff Zbar
As a full-time, first-time teleworker and newly hired senior executive
at First Virtual Communications, Bob Romano's arrival last October could
have been a disaster.
Instead, he turned to tools that are fast becoming commonplace in the
corporate and home office environments - video conferencing and instant
From the start, Romano was breaking an important rule of telework. He
was a newcomer to the company tasked with managing an established team of
45 workers scattered in offices in Santa Clara, Nashua, N.H., Berkshire,
England, and La Gaude, France.
And there was Romano, working remotely from his home in Austin, Texas.
"I hadn't created any interpersonal relationships yet," he recalls.
To remedy the situation, Romano traveled to both U.S. locations and
spent several weeks getting to know his team, professionally and socially.
When he returned to Austin, Romano turned to videoconferencing, instant
messaging and e-mail to maintain those relationships.
It certainly helped that First Virtual's product line of video
conferencing and collaboration software is designed to serve the remote
worker. In fact, with seven years spent working in the video conferencing
sector, Romano convinced company executives that the tools would help keep
his team connected and make telework work.
Romano says he holds videoconferences as frequently as other execs make
phone calls. Using First Virtual's Click to Meet Web-based media
conferencing and collaboration product, he brainstorms ideas with his
team, and sketches out new ideas and thoughts on the application's white
board, all the while eyeing people's reactions. Recently, he instant
messaged a staffer he caught daydreaming during a meeting. "It's like
nudging people in a meeting to stay awake," he jokes.
One recent weekday, Romano found himself at his home office desk,
participating in two simultaneous videoconferences on separate computer
monitors. He had six instant messaging chats going at once, one of which
was a fellow executive pinging Romano to answer the phone because it was
the exec calling. Just then, the FedEx guy - another contact in the remote
work environment - dropped by with a package from the team.
"I realized how connected we can be. There's unprecedented access," he
says. "Without all these tools, I'd be way more inclined to fly up and
meet the team."
Romano has even relied on video conferencing to interview and hire two
new employees. After a month, he's still not met them in person. "But I
honestly feel like I know them because we've spent a lot of time on video
together," he says.
Even so, video conferencing and instant messaging are no panacea, says
Romano, who still spends at least a week each month in the company's two
U.S. offices. At 47, Romano was raised on management by walking around,
impromptu lunches with the staff, and happenstance meetings in the
hallways, lunchroom or offices. Nothing, he says, replaces in-office
face-time. But with three adolescent kids, Romano wants his at-home time.
And the technology lets him have both.
Going totally VO
By Jeff Zbar
After six years as a dedicated teleworker, Joe Roitz feels like he's
been assimilated by the Internet.
AT&T's telework director works with colleagues and clients he's never
met, holds conversations and meetings in a digital forum, and forges
friendships without uttering a sound - save for the ping of an in-bound
And Roitz wouldn't have it any other way.
"Virtual work is such a powerful way to run an enterprise," he says.
"You don't have all these visual perceptions to get in the way. You remove
that lens and bias and you're left with pure knowledge."
A decade ago, a blizzard in Atlanta made Roitz's commute impossible,
and introduced him to telework. A few years later, he moved his office
home full time when his wife took a job in Dallas. Since, he's earned his
MBA online from the University of Phoenix, and shares digital images of
his arrowhead collections with other enthusiasts on the Web.
These days, from his home in rural Roland, Ark., Roitz reports to
home-based managers near AT&T offices in Atlanta and New Jersey, and works
with 50 co-workers to manage the company's telework program. Moreover, he
savors the free time he spends with his wife and 6-year old son.
A self-described e-mail junkie who considers instant messaging
intrusive, Roitz says the Internet helps him increase productivity. During
Web casts, some AT&T staffers might lament the buffering's lag-time. But
Roitz and others laud the chance to participate in the Web cast if it
means they can skip a trip to the office.
"They don't need to walk away from their desks. People who are VO
[virtually officed] can see the viewgraphs and hear the speaker, and they
can do their e-mail or other things," he adds.
Such increased productivity translates into bottom line savings. AT&T's
recent employee survey of 1,500 teleworkers showed that on telework days,
employees produce 10% more work - resulting in $65 million in increased
output from those workers alone.
Still, Roitz acknowledges the notion of "disappearing in the Web"
leaves some uncomfortable. But not him. "People know about your kids and
where you live like you sit next to them.
That's not to say [telework] has to be full-time and consume our lives.
But when it works well, sometimes you don't notice until you're
By Melissa Shaw
No one likes a control freak, not to mention someone who micromanages.
Yet if you asked those micromanagers why they grip their staffs so
tightly, they would probably say it had to do with ensuring productivity.
I can hear it now, "If I left them to their own devices, nothing would get
I think we've all seen this approach backfire time and time again.
There is a big difference between setting, encouraging and enforcing goals
and accountability, and standing over employees' shoulders while they
work. An interesting article in our recent You Issue examines the concept
of allowing employees to build slack time into their workdays to improve
Tom DeMarco, author of "Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the
Myth of Total Efficiency," says managers can be more effective when they
give staffers the freedom to budget their own time and approach to solving
a problem. If you don't give your employees any ownership in their work or
workday, they're not going to be as engaged or invested in the end
Bottom line: Don't manage your folks out of a fast-food rulebook, where
everything has to be performed a certain way in a specific time period
with a uniform result.
"Instead of the directed obsession with elimination of all slack -
that's what we've been seeing during the past few years in the interests
of efficiency - it's now time to ease up and give people enough slack to
be able to change. In this era of sea change, the ability to turn on a
dime is worth a lot more than that last little bit of efficiency," DeMarco
While this makes sense, it can be very hard to do. We managers are
responsible for the bottom line of our departments and it is hard to
relinquish control of something that will affect you. But taking these
risks can yield gains you didn't foresee. First, you're going to have
happier employees. They will be less stressed out working under an
unrelenting eye and will enjoy their jobs more. People who didn't like
your style of management will enjoy this newfound freedom and your
turnover is reduced. Second, your staff may discover better ways of doing
things. I know it's hard to believe, but our way of getting from Point A
to B may not be the best. Left to their own devices, your staff could
discover efficiencies and savings you didn't know existed. Lastly, you
will be less stressed-out. Instead of worrying about a million details and
rushing around trying to personally supervise everyone, you can eventually
relax knowing your staff is on top of the to-dos. You, in turn, can focus
on what every manager should: planning and strategizing for upcoming
projects. And as I unrelentingly write, planning is the key to true
Where should I sit?
By Jeff Zbar
When Cigna HealthCare began dispersing workers from its corporate
office, executives soon realized the workers often had no place to work
when they occasionally returned.
In the past few years, Cigna has learned that home is not the only
office for teleworkers. Sometimes, teleworkers need an office at the
office - even if it's not their own.
Some 2,100 of the company's 40,000 U.S. employees are formal members of
the firm's E*Work program. E*Workers give up personal office space to work
from home full-time, or share on-site space with a colleague. Another
8,000 Cigna employees telework informally, retaining their offices and
working remotely as needed.
But on days remote workers would head into a corporate office for
meetings or presentations, they often found themselves scrambling for a
random desk to make phone calls or get some reading or computer work done
In Phoenix, as with a dozen other U.S. cities, the company set out to
create suitable workspace for remote workers, says Lynne Kelley-Lewicki,
director of Integrated Workscape Strategies with Cigna in Bloomfield,
When a tenant in Cigna's Phoenix office building vacated 1,700 square
feet of office space, Cigna took over the space with plans to launch a
pilot program. Cigna executives in Kelley-Lewicki's department
collaborated with E*Work team members, considering teleworkers' work
patterns, spatial and technology needs, and team working requirements.
The E*Work Touchdown Site was designed to serve a variety of needs; it
includes a reading and concentration area, a computer room, a phone/work
area, and a small training or collaborative area. Wheeled furniture
fosters collaboration, equipped with desktop computers and network
connections for workers with laptops. A storage room holds office
supplies, and workers store their belongings in one of 36 lockers. They
bring their own padlocks and remove their belongings at day's end.
"We recreated the full infrastructure for the employee," Kelley-Lewicki
In May, Cigna unveiled the Touchdown Site. To enter, an employee logs
on to the "Phxmesa" coded directory in the company's Outlook program,
which has been altered to double as a reservations system. Comments
provide a text description of the space available, including Group Work,
Individual Work, Small Tables or Team Area. Based on their needs,
employees reserve the appropriate space, whether it be for team meetings
and collaboration, private computer time, or just a quiet space to work
between on-site meetings.
The site is open to all Cigna employees, though remote workers take
priority. All space is reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cigna says the Phoenix site will be joined by a dozen similar
facilities in New England, South Carolina, Chicago, Denver and Midwest -
markets where office space is at a premium. While most Cigna offices have
teleworkers, new centers will be developed as needed in new E*Work
"Workers don't want random seats," Kelley-Lewicki says. "They want
something fixed, safe and productive. This creates a much more flexible
No more musical desks
By Jeff Zbar
As a full-time teleworker, Sue Mitchell was never more of a nomad than
on the days she went to the corporate office.
To become permanently home-based, project manager Mitchell gave up her
office at Cigna HealthCare of Arizona in Phoenix. But when she visited the
office for a day-long meeting or presentation and needed to check messages
or work on a project, she had to compete with other teleworkers for
"I had to scramble to find a desk to work from, and carry my computer
and belongings with me from meeting to meeting," Mitchell says.
Is this any way to welcome teleworkers back into the corporate office?
Many companies laud the real estate and productivity gains that come with
sending employees home to work full time. But what about when they come
back? Many are left to ferret out vacant cubes, all the while praying it's
got a working phone and LAN connection. What's more, full-time off-site
workers often lose touch with the social network. No on-site workspace, no
Some innovate companies are creating hotels or permanent telework
centers to serve their remote workers when they return. Not only do
companies find teleworkers more productive, workers find they retain ties
to the corporate office and colleagues - a bond which doesn't
their only desk is at home.
In May, Cigna debuted its Phoenix E*Work Touchdown Site, an office
suite designed to serve a variety of needs for the office's 44
teleworkers. Now, when Mitchell knows she'll be on site, she logs on to
the "Phxmesa" coded directory in the company's Outlook program to reserve
a space. Usually, she just needs an individual workspace to plug in her
laptop and make a few calls. There are collaborative and group areas, and
a handful of desktop computers to work on if she leaves her laptop at
The site is more than just a place to work. Mitchell's rarely alone at
the site. Once she's stashed her sweater and purse in one of 36 lockers
and has logged on to the company network, Mitchell can catch up with other
teleworkers sharing the facility.
Her twice weekly visits to the center have created a social network
that serves as a great remedy for the isolation and occasional loneliness
of the home office. "I thought it was going to have a bunch of cubes," she
admits. "But it's so much more than that."
The site even helps Mitchell's team and manager. Before the Touchdown
Site, tracking down Mitchell was a happenstance affair, admits Susan
Cordier, Mitchell's manager and director of provider services. Mitchell
had shared a cube with a co-worker - splitting her week between the home
office and corporate office. That meant Cordier had to know Mitchell's
weekly schedule to track her down.
"Now I know Sue will be accessible and productive because she has a
space," Cordier says.
How to run a war
From Gil Gordon:
"The next time a manager tells you remote management won’t work ... you
might remind that person that U.S. Army General Tommy Franks is running
the war in Afghanistan from his headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
"I heard him interviewed on NPR this morning and he discussed this
somewhat unusual way to run a war. He said that fifteen or twenty years
ago something like this would never have been thought possible, and now it
"He benefits from having a full war room next to his office with
real-time data displays and live video feeds that are updated at least
once per minute, he said. (Gee, I bet HE doesn't have problems with his
"This kind of remote management - and it is exactly that, as opposed to
remote work (in this case being done by his subordinate officers and
troops, of course) really makes the complaints we all hear about "I can't
tell what they're doing if I'm not there" seem pretty silly.
"So, the next time you hear a manager say that he/she can't figure out
how to tell that an accountant or programmer, for example, is doing the
job remotely, remind that person about Gen. Franks."
Preparing for the worst
A number of recent articles in United States publications have
referred to the problems created by wintry weather. Snow and ice
have blocked roads and made it extremely difficult for commuters.
The obvious solution for many such commuters (and their employers) has
been telework (or telecommuting).
Of course, bad weather isn't the only threat businesses face.
Terrorist attacks, outbreaks of SARS or other viruses, forest fires and
traffic interruptions have all driven employers to make more use of
flexible work practices. Companies as diverse as accountants,
lawyers, Intel, Nike, stock-brokers, and many more have all coped with
these risks through smart application of telework. Even when it's
not accepted practice for staff in normal conditions, there will still
be a contingency plan that accepts that telework is a useful alternative
to life-threatening or extremely long commutes.
In New Zealand, we are bedevilled by power cuts, traffic
interruptions, snow and ice (in the south), floods, and much more.
And of course, the major threats are yet to manifest themselves -- when
is Wellington's next earthquake due? Although some companies have
taken the obvious steps of allowing telework or at least ensuring that
it is possible, many other organisations are at serious risk.
Without an effective business continuity plan -- one that includes
telework -- business could suffer. And of course it would be very
wise to test the telework arrangements to make sure that they work --
before they are needed.
And just to show that bad weather isn't the only threat that can be
overcome with a telework arrangement: