by W. S. "Sev" MacPete
I recently attended the Telecommute America Educational Seminar at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Diego. This seminar was sponsored by AT&T. The session started out with AT&T’s definition of telecommuting as a “business strategy...promoting flexible work environments by effectively utilizing communications-based office technology, which creates measurable business value for the company, the individual and their customers.” The discussions centered upon the new non-traditional work environments that are rapidly emerging , and their effect on business. Some of the benefits to business have been reduction of costs, increased productivity, retention and recruitment of skilled workers, organizational flexibility, and globalization. For instance, we learned that it costs $8,000 per year to put a person in an office taking into account the real estate and operating expenses. This fact gives big business a real financial reason to explore the emerging world of telecommuting.
According to BIS Strategic Decisions “Within the next six years, wireless tools alone will constitute a Virtual Workplace market of $6 billion-$1.6 billion in hardware, $4.4 billion in network services.” So you can understand the Communications Industries’ interest in this subject. Some of the reasons we should be interested in telecommuting as individuals are the improved productivity, greater flexibility, reduced expenses, increased morale and job satisfaction, less stress due to less commuting time, allowance of a better balance between work and your personal life, and more time for other activities such as keeping current and improving on your education.
Some of the businesses currently involved in telecommuting are:
· Apple Computer
has their technical writers doing their research and writing from home and coming into the office only twice a week for scheduled meetings.
· AT&T (figures for San Diego only)
has 35 Account Executives working out of their homes and was able to cut its office space from 72,000 square feet to 26,500 square feet which resulted in a 60% rent decrease.
· The Federal Government
began its program in 1990 and has approximately 4,000 employees from 20 major Federal agencies working at home.
· Smart Valley Telecommuting Pilot Project
In Silicon Valley, California a pilot project was started in 1994 and eight firms including Hewlett-Packard, Pacific Bell, and Deloitte & Touche had nearly 100 workers participating. The feedback indicated that telecommuting resulted in improved productivity, better quality of personal life and increased employee retention.
· Many other firms such as The Travelers, J.C. Penney’s 250 catalogue sales agents, DuPont’s chemical field sales staff members, Ernst & Young, Avon Products, Patagonia, LA County and IBM Consumer Services all utilize telecommuting in their businesses.
Some of the potential drawbacks mentioned in the seminar were being able to identify the right jobs and the right people for telecommuting, providing technical support, supporting the skill development of employees and managers, measuring the impact ( cost/benefit analysis) and the biggest hurdle of them all ...osses that don’t trust their employees to be able to work unsupervised.
Representing local telecommuting interests was T.J. Murray of The San Diego Data Processing Corporation who talked about The San Diego/Baja Region of the Future, a project to establish a public/private partnership to expand the role of telecommunications in business development on both sides of the border. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit division of the City of San Diego established in 1979, the SDDPC has already ringed the city with fiber optic cabling and provides The City with all of its telecommunications and data processing needs over it. Interestingly, more police officers have hand held computers in San Diego than anywhere else in the country. San Diego is poised to be the epicenter in the emerging eruption of the information age.
To find out more about telecommuting or attend a Telecommute America Seminar contact Telecommute at 1-800-TRAINER or to reach the San Diego Data Processing Group call 619-234-1500.