Well, yes...my title is a baited question. Of course you are. Who isn't? But it is especially true in today's economic environment. As we wind down 2008 and gear up for 2009, one thing that is becoming very clear is that projects will not be funded if there isn't a measurable cost reduction associated with it. One cost saving initiative that has seen excellent traction the past few years is teleworking. That being said, many companies still are hesitant to embrace it. I'm here to tell you that if you haven't fully begun a teleworking program, you should. First, for the average office worker, real estate is anywhere from 60% - 75% of the cost of supporting that person. This encompasses office space, furniture, network links, phones, electricity, and everything that goes with running an office. If you let your workforce operate remotely, you can eliminate or greatly reduce those expenses. Instead of housing 100 people in a building, you can reduce it to a few dozen "flex desks" and some conference rooms. People can collaborate in person if needed, and you can have clients over for meetings, but you do not need to house all of those people on a daily basis. Think about your real estate bill. Now cut it by 3/4. That is hard savings that you can measure. You will certainly put some of that money back into the people through home office allowances and software to enable the switch, but it is generally a small percentage of that real estate bill.
What was really lacking, even up until recently, was software that made the home office experience very much like the real office environment. The latest versions of collaboration software such as OCS 2007 & Sametime 8 offer truly viable alternatives to the desk phone, conference bridge, and meeting room. For example, the upcoming OCS 2007 R2 (shipping in Feb. 2009) will have many features previously lacking in previous versions, such as having multiple numbers ring when your office line rings, call forwarding, call parking, etc. When you couple that in with the features that have worked for years including IM, presence, web conferencing, white-boarding, click-to-call, and video, you can see how these technologies are becoming truly viable alternatives to desk phones and offices.
Another aspect that is now becoming very enterprise ready is audio conferencing. It is just as easy to launch a group conference or setup an audio conference within these software services as it is to dial your existing provider. Several companies are now using these technologies to augment or replace their audio conference bridge services. Eliminating 60%-80% of audio conferencing charges is not uncommon.
I'd be remiss if I didn't address the workers themselves. I'll use myself as an example. I live approximately 50 miles (85 km) from our Chicago office. I have a train available in my town that can get me to the office in about 70 minutes. When you factor in driving a few miles to the train, walking to and from the station, etc., I have about a 3 hour door-to-door round trip to work. For the past few years, I have worked from home. I go into the office for the reasons I mentioned above, like customer meetings, office gatherings, etc. Otherwise, I am either at home or at a customer site. What do I do with those 3 hours? Well, I work at least 2 of them. I'll take conference calls, talk to customers, or work on proposals. I also get to see my kids get on the school bus. If I need to run an errand in the middle of the day, that's not a problem as long as I am able to get my work done. Instead of worrying about getting something done and racing back to the office, I focus on my job and take care of my business when I have time to do it. That might be at 10 am, noon, 3 pm, or 8 pm. It doesn't matter, since I am not tied to an office. In the past 3 years, I would say I work an average of 2.5 hours a day more than I did when I was in an office, and I am by far happier and more productive. I've taken conference calls at 3 am with people in Europe and at 10 pm with people in Asia. Working from home makes that possible and plausible. Would I take that 3 am call if I were tied to an office? There's not a chance. But if I can crawl out of bed, take the call, then crawl back into bed, I will do it. You might think I'm a bit overzealous, but I even was on a call a few weeks ago with some folks in Europe on Thanksgiving Day at 10 am CST. If I didn't work from home, there's no way that would happen. Teleworking has empowered me to work how I need to work, and in turn has made me a far more efficient, effective, and dedicated employee.
One last item to consider is a movement that is on every company's radar, and that's going Green. When you enable your workforce to work from anywhere, you are greatly reducing your footprint. You are taking those people off of the roads and railways, in turn reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. You are eliminating the power needed to run their office spaces. I'm in my home office, which would be heated/cooled, powered, etc., anyway. All I am doing is turning on my lights. You don't have to have a PBX, file server, etc., running in your closet at an office, since everything will be consolidated into your data centers and delivered through the cloud. Teleworking=Green, folks. It's a great way to help your bottom line and the environment.
As recently as 3 or 4 years ago, teleworking wasn't necessarily viable for the majority of the workforce. However, the proliferation of high speed access for homes, greatly improved security systems, improved collaboration software, and infrastructure consolidation have made where you work far less important than how you work. If you allow people to work in their own environment, they will be more loyal and more willing to go the extra mile for the company.
Remember, by allowing your people to work where they want, can you make your workers happier, healthier, more flexible, and more productive, as well as are enabling your company to go Green! It's a win-win scenario!