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Friday, 05 September 2014 16:11

What a Scattered Office Means For Your Company Culture

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Telecommuting is increasingly becoming a way of business life.  According to the United States Census Bureau, an estimated 20 to 30 million people work at home at least one day a week. Worldwide, the numbers are even more impressive. The Citrix Workplace of the Future survey found that 24% of global companies allow their employees to work at times and locations of their choosing.

What are the benefits of this approach? For employees, telecommuting eliminates commuting costs and provides a better life/work balance. For companies, it lowers employee-related and real estate costs, which can be a major boon to small businesses that may lack the capital and infrastructure to maintain a traditional office environment. Additionally, this work arrangement allows businesses to hire from a wider pool of applicants, including disabled and geographically removed workers.

However, working from home also presents a number of unique challenges for both employees and employers. Recently, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer revoked her company’s longstanding at-home work option, citing her company’s need to improve employee collaboration and communication. In a Forrester survey, other employers shared Mayer’s concerns, with 49% worried about effective communication with remote employees and 43% concerned about managing projects and deadlines successfully.

What can employers do to minimize these potential disadvantages? It’s all about the right employees, the right security, and the right project tracking business tools.

The Right Employees

Not every employee is cut out to be an at-home worker. Most employees have been conditioned to work in a micromanaged office environment and some may flounder when working independently. Julia Drake, the founder and director of Julia Drake Public Relations, solved this problem by instating a trial period for all possible hires.

“I spent about six months to a year with them to make sure they possessed the right work ethic and the ability to work independently without a boss breathing down their neck,” Drake said. “It takes ambition, discipline, and a passion for what you do. It takes a certain type of person.” 

Companies can also have potential employees take personality and behavior tests as part of the application process, such as the one my company uses by Affintus. These can help determine if an employee would work better in an office or at-home environment.

The Right Security

The aforementioned Citrix study also found that 83% of businesses allow remote employees to use their own devices to access company networks. Additionally, 59% of remote workers do not back up company data. This can create a lot of hassle and potential security risks, especially for small businesses that might have fewer security protections in place.

To maintain the security of sensitive and critical data, businesses should develop and enforce security best practices, and keep employees informed of possible security threats. Additionally, they should keep track of what devices employees are using, and what they are using them for.

The Right Project Tracking Business Tools

Employees often flourish when they are given freedom and flexibility in how and where they work. However, that doesn’t mean that businesses should give up their ability to monitor employee progress. Employers can easily stay in touch with remote employees through email and instant messaging. Company meetings can be conducted through video conferencing. 

Employers would also be well advised to implement software to track employee time for individual projects. This software should be fully integrated across remote and in-house workers, so that employers can view their entire workforce at a glance. This will allow managers to effectively manage deadlines and costs for all company projects.

Telecommuting seems to be the way of the future, and it offers many benefits for both employers and employees. But businesses can only enjoy these benefits if they implement certain guidelines and securities. If they fail to do so, businesses risk ending up like Yahoo, and having to revoke the telecommuting option years down the line. 

About the Author: Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Journyx strives to be relentlessly creative and to build tools that help you spend your time on things that matter. After all, time is all we have. Founded in 1996, Journyx offers customers two solutions to reach the highest levels of profitability: Journyx – project, time and expense tracking software – and Journyx PX – resource management software that provides work and financial forecasting for a complete picture of project and budget status, employee time and availability. Connect with Curt on Google+.
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Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Founded in 1996, Journyx automates payroll, billing and cost accounting while easing management of employee time and expenses, and provides confidence that all resources are utilized correctly and completely. Curt can be found on Twitter at @CurtFinch and on Google+ at +CurtFinch.

Website: journyx.com/company/curtfinch
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