Plenty Of Companies Would Consider Going Virtual To Save Money

from the work-from-home dept

I recently wrote about the somewhat hybrid physical office/virtual office we use here at Floor64, and how that's worked out well for us. Apparently, with the current financial crisis, a lot of companies are beginning to reassess whether they really need a physical office at all. A new study found that 43% of small and mid-sized businesses would consider going completely virtual in order to help deal with the current economy. Of course, the wording seems a bit weird. Why is it "would consider" rather than "are considering"? It's as if they weren't considering it at all, but suddenly thanks to this survey they admit they would consider it at some point in the future, thanks to the survey alerting them of the possibility. There may be issues involving long term leases and such, but it still seems odd to have companies say they would consider it in the future, but apparently aren't considering it now.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    CmdrOberon, Dec 4th, 2008 @ 7:01pm

    > There may be issues involving long term leases and such

    Yes, issues. If it were for those nagging little issues, they would've gotten away with it too!

    Your blog is obviously a business blog, but neglecting
    the workers just as the MSM isn't very progressive.

    Companies just can't close offices and make everyone
    work at home; there are labor laws that probably
    prevent that sort of thing. Are the employees going to
    get subsidized internet connections? Computers? Electricity? A raise for working through lunch, since
    it's just around the corner in the kitchen? Where will
    meetings be held? What about printed material which
    must be distributed?

    Issues, indeed.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Ryan Singer, Dec 4th, 2008 @ 7:14pm

    Re:

    Most of the issues you mention aren't big deals for people who telecommute. Let me break it down:

    1. Internet - Sometimes. Some employers consider this part of the home office, and some just say it's a prereq of the job. Try signing up for a job at elance.com and say you want them to pay your internet bill on top of your contracting fee. This is considered a perk when it happens, but it is not the employers responsibility.

    2. Computers - see #1

    3. Electricity - No, I have never heard of an employer giving a heating or electricity subsidy. This is often made up for by the fact that commuting costs more money that staying home, and most employers won't pay the gas you use to commute to an office either.

    4. About working through lunch, many people eat lunch at their desk in the office already, just to get more done. I don't see why that would be a bigger deal at home.

    5. Meetings are the issue his previous post was about, why a hybrid model might be better. Check out the book "Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it." it makes a decent case that most meetings are better done as an email or phone call, anyway.

    6. Distributing printed material - In an office environment, material such as this is almost always distributed via email these days. I've worked for several publically traded companies behind a desk, and besides new hire paperwork, I've never been handed important printed material, all important material was emailed.

    There are issues, but most of them really just involve different incentives and productivity.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    CmdrOberon, Dec 4th, 2008 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Re:

    1. Internet.
    Contractors and employees are different entities
    under labor law. Contractors have no benefits
    and are paid a higher hourly wage.

    I understand what you're saying, but if
    your *employer* suddenly tells you that
    they're closing the office and you have
    to work at home. But, to do your work, you
    need to connect to their servers to do your
    job because you can't have data on your system,
    then there are going to be legal issues and
    should be issues of remuneration.

    An effort of the company cutting costs
    should not be a pay cut for me because I
    now have to pay for the things which are
    only beneficial to them.

    2. Same thing. If you're a virtual
    secretary or paralegal doing work
    for a company as an employee, they
    need to provide the hardware.
    If they do not, you are not an employee,
    you are a contract.

    Depending on the size of the company,
    you can't just fire all of your workers
    and hire contractors to replace them
    without significant legal cost and
    financial paperwork.

    3. If the company is forcing you to work at home,
    they should bear the brunt of the cost.
    It may not happen now, but if this silly idea
    takes hold, they'll have to start ponying up.

    Companies (such as Home Depot with their
    stupidity of making customers into parttime
    cashiers with the Self Serve checkout) have
    been sticking it to individuals too long; if
    my company said they were closing the doors
    and forcing me to work at home to cut costs,
    I'd either ask for a raise or for them to pay
    the costs for me working at home; TANSTAAFL.

    5. I don't think you have metrics to back this up.
    I work on a team with about 30 people. Email
    for such a meeting would be untenable. Same
    with a phone call.

    6. You've never worked in an office recently then,
    I surmise, because your statement is patently
    false. If you're on a marketing team building
    product and you're getting mockups, that's
    not going to work in email.
    NDA material is rarely, if ever sent
    through email(especially from Intel).
    Last time I checked, companies still receive
    snail mail too; how will that be distributed?

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2008 @ 8:57pm

    I've worked at home as an employee a few times. In every case the computer, Internet access and cell phone service was provided. Just like at a physical office.

    Working from home does not preclude one from going to lunch or even meeting co-workers for lunch.

    As for meetings there are lots of options, see FreeConferenceCall and GoToMeeting. The company pays for these services. You learn to accomplish the same tasks in new and different ways, for the better.

    Most printed materials can be handled electronicly, those that cannot get sent FedEx. Yes, the FedEx account is provided too.

    The benefit of not having to commute far out weighs the cost of the electricity. There are other benefits too like more time with family. Not to mention using your own bathroom.

    Working remotely is not for everyone and there are lots of jobs that just cannot be done from home. But it can also work out great for everyone.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Tin, Dec 4th, 2008 @ 9:27pm

    Inevitable

    It is by far the best way to thwart terrorism. They can't hurt us physically if we're not bunched in a train or office building.

    Oh and did I tell you it saves companies overhead? Saves carbon emissions? and saves employees time from commuting? Oh it saves the city money by not having too much wear and tear on the roads too...

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    homedatacenter, Dec 4th, 2008 @ 11:03pm

    E-Lecricity!

    I am a full time employed consultant...I work for a company as a consultant that is. I do about 60% travel, but when I am in town, I home office. The company pays for my VOIP, Internet and part of my electric bill, as I run about 6 servers, 2 firewalls, VPN and other misc. equipment in order to do my job. Are those perks?, I don't think so, they are a cost of doing business the way you have to now-a-days. If I worked for joe's widgets and joe wanted me to work from home, I would expect him to pay for anything that I am required to have to do my job.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Twinrova, Dec 5th, 2008 @ 4:23am

    There's more than cost involved. Trust is the biggest fear factor.

    As an intranet developer for the company I currently work for, I've been asking for a physical/virtual schedule for years, often being told "no".

    When asked why, the first response is "then everyone will want it", but when I push further, it seems trust is the issue, not the concept.

    There's no way to accurately oversee what an employee does at home. Login verifications are obvious, but there's just too many open doors for security risks.

    Working in the medical field, HIPAA is a damn good reason the virtual world is closed off despite making the best and cost saving decision my company can make.

    There's absolutely no guarantee of security, which is why I can assume most "may consider".

    On a side note, you may want to be careful what you ask for. Having as many companies go virtual can easily set up additional unforeseen risks in the future. What in the world would happen if 43% did go virtual?

    That's a HUGE real estate vacancy number and don't tell me 43% of new businesses who can't go virtual would buy up the space, especially when these buildings were build for cubicles, not machinery.

    And that's just the start of these outcomes most don't think about.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2008 @ 6:08am

    The one key aspect nobody is mentioning is control. That is, the perceived lack of control a company will have over their employees at home. If they don't see you in your 10x10 cubicle, you aren't working. It doesn't matter that you can surf, snooze, make personal calls and talk to others in your cube. You are "at work" so you must be "working". Now if you are out of sight, you are probably playing and not working.

    Most companies have no real idea about how much work or the quality of work someone produces. Until they can figure out how to track both, they will not let people work from home.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2008 @ 7:53am

    I started my own business and we all worked from home for a while.

    It was very hard to get organized. People really didn't take the work "seriously" until we got an office. Then, it was an "actual job" for everyone. We got a lot accomplished.

    Ultimately, the business was running low on money and we decided to close the office and work at home. It was the killing blow to the company.

    The reality is that not everyone is wired to be self-disciplined enough to work that way. If you have a bunch of people that are, then that's great and you can save a lot of money by doing that. But, from my experience, a little more than half of people can't handle it.

    (I have telecommuted at several different companies, but at most you earned that right over several years. It wasn't granted right away.)

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    taishan, Dec 5th, 2008 @ 8:55am

    Justificaion

    Anonymous Coward has nailed the crux of the buisness case, that of "control." I agree that the biggest issue is that businesses feel they have no contol over employees even though the person working from home may be doing more work than the person, as AC said, in their cubicle who is doing nothing all day.

    Also, there is the "justification" issue. I cannot conceive of a business wherein all employees are going to be able to work from home, leaving perhaps half the employees, as I have witnessed, disgruntled because they could not work from home. This happened even though the company which implemented work from home positions clearly stated which departments could be considered "work from home" and which could not.

    Eventually, grumbling and complaints from the "non work from home" employees caused the company to cease all work from home situations, even though the company was bursting at the seams space-wise in one of the most expensive office lease markets in the country.

    Even though telecommuting has, as far as I know, been shown to be a sucess in terms of employee productivity and cost savings for employers, I think both of these reasons - justification to other employees and control issues - are going to dictate that telecommuting is not going to grow signifigantly in the future unless, like most other progressive movements, pushed by the government.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2008 @ 9:52am

    Corollary to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle...

    57% percent of small business owners fail at quantum mechanics. Headline should be 100% of small business owners have considered going virtual because we asked them the question.

    The mere fact that the survey asked them the question caused them to think about it, even for the briefest time period, thus they can be considered to have "considered" it.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    nasch, Dec 5th, 2008 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're acting as though nobody's ever done this and it's some wild pie in the sky idea that will never work. Neither is the case and it happens all the time. My company has no office and everyone telecommutes.

    "1. Internet. I understand what you're saying, but if your *employer* suddenly tells you that they're closing the office and you have to work at home. But, to do your work, you need to connect to their servers to do your job because you can't have data on your system, then there are going to be legal issues and should be issues of remuneration."

    There are no legal issues, the company has no legal obligation to have an office. They can also set whatever remuneration policies they want. My company reimburses for internet at 50% on the assumption that some use is personal and some business.

    "2. Same thing. If you're a virtual secretary or paralegal doing work for a company as an employee, they need to provide the hardware. If they do not, you are not an employee, you are a contract."

    Whether you're an employee or a contractor is defined by your employment agreement, nothing else. Your employer probably requires you to wear clothing to the office, but most do not buy the clothes or reimburse for them. They could also require you to have a computer. My company needed me to have two machines. I had one suitable one, so they bought the other one.

    "3. If the company is forcing you to work at home, they should bear the brunt of the cost."

    Nobody would be forcing you to do anything. If you don't want to work for them, work somewhere else.

    "if my company said they were closing the doors and forcing me to work at home to cut costs, I'd either ask for a raise or for them to pay the costs for me working at home; TANSTAAFL."

    And they could either agree to your demands or not. As mentioned before, they're probably not paying for your costs to commute to work now.

    "5. I don't think you have metrics to back this up. I work on a team with about 30 people. Email for such a meeting would be untenable. Same with a phone call.

    6. You've never worked in an office recently then, I surmise, because your statement is patently false. If you're on a marketing team building product and you're getting mockups, that's not going to work in email."

    Some jobs are suitable for remote work and others are not. Trash collectors can't work from home either, but that doesn't mean nobody else can.

    "Last time I checked, companies still receive snail mail too; how will that be distributed?"

    Um... as snail mail? You do have a mailbox at your house, right?

     

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  13.  
    icon
    danny (profile), Dec 5th, 2008 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Corollary to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle...

    Good point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Sandy Martell, Dec 2nd, 2012 @ 3:44pm

    Working from Home

    I think working from home is one great idea but my question is this where do you find these companies that need people to work from home that is not a scam but is honest work

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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