Telecommuting, e-commuting, e-work, telework, working at home (WAH), or working from home (WFH) is a work arrangement in which employees enjoy limited flexibility in working location and hours. In other words, the daily commute to a central place of work is replaced by telecommunication links. Many work from home, while others, occasionally also referred to as nomad workers or web commuters, use mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or myriad other locations. Telework is a broader term, referring to substituting telecommunications for any form of work-related travel, thereby eliminating the distance restrictions of telecommuting. (Wikipedia)
Is telecommuting a good architecture decision or not?
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), 28 February 2008, reports that “Some Companies Rethink The Telecommuting Trend.”
“A few big promoters of home-based and mobile-office work arrangements, including AT&T, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and parts of the federal government, have called some home-based workers back to the office.”
- Consolidation of operations—organizations are centralizing operational functions and bringing people back in, believing that telecommuting is unnecessary. For example, “Hewlett-Packard, the company that invented flextime, called a significant number of home-office information-technology workers back to the office in 2006, during a consolidation of its 85 data centers.”
- Teamwork—belief that “teamwork improves when people work face-to-face” and through “impromptu dialogues, collaboration, and mentoring.”
Another reason not cited by the WSJ is continued management apprehension about losing control. Management fears that workers are either not working as productively or doing what they want them to do when they are out of sight. It’s a trust issue, and unfortunately, some employees who misuse telework programs ruin it for others who are diligent and honest putting in their hours and doing their work.
Despite these issues with telework, “U.S. corporate employees working full time from home are still rising, gaining 30% since 2005 to 2.44 million in 2007, says Ray Boggs, a research vice president with IDC.”
What are some benefits of telework programs?
- Cost savings—including corporate office space, furniture, equipment, and utilities.
- Recruiting and retaining employees—providing telework options is a benefit for workers and can aid in recruiting and retention—it can save employees money on transportation and work wardrobe, enable more flexible hours, and can provide accommodation to enable some people who could not get to a regular office setting (due to childcare or eldercare responsibilities, disabilities, or other personal situations) the opportunity to be productive human beings.
- Flexible work force—“teleworkers are easy to fire and relocate…because they’re not visible.”
- Greener environment—telework saves people from having to commute to work and reduces pollution from their vehicles.
- Continuity of operations—having an offsite workforce helps protect an organization continue operating even when disasters (natural, accidental, or malicious) strikes the corporate offices.
Ways for teleworkers to keep working from home: “perform well…increase your visibility…make an effort to collaborate.”
For federal employees, “Section 630(a) of Public Law 105-277 (Flexiplace Work Telecommuting Programs) authorized certain Executive agencies to spend a minimum of $50,000 for fiscal year 1999, and each fiscal year thereafter, to establish and carry out a flexiplace work telecommuting program.” (www.opm.gov)
As an enterprise architect, I firmly believe that we need to plan and implement robust telework programs—that the benefits outweigh the costs. The human capital perspective that I espouse for enterprise architecture demands that we build in programs, such as teleworking, that create a more flexible and diverse workforce and provide cost savings and other positive impacts. Of course, telework programs and teleworkers need to be structured and managed so that goals are understood and met, and collaboration and teamwork is not impeded.