Work shifting, teleworking, home working mean the same thing : working in another place than a traditional office (traditionally from home). In a first approach, people see disadvantages like :
- Team communication
- Lack of management buy-in
- Cultural aspects
I can not blame them. You can not start doing teleworking without having a good methodology to supervise and good tools for communication. We already try in the past and we failed. Why did we fail ? Lack of tools and methodology. But we will try again because benefits are really important both for employers and employees.
The first advantage I see is cost reduction. By doing a small survey in our company we found that more then 70% of our employees drive 200 km a day to come and work. It means they spend 200 Euro a month just for gas. On top of that we need to take into account costs for car maintenance. More then that, they loose 2 hours per day to arrive at the office.
The average cost for car ride was around 300 euros / month for my company. You have to compare that with existing price for tools offering real telecommunication functionalities like Office 365, Skype or Fuze meeting. It represents probably less then 10% of your current costs.
But, that’s solve only the communication problem. By doing that, if your team is less effective, you loose more money then you earn. Nevertheless, more then one study shows that people who work from home are more productive than their office counterparts. The main reason for me is fewer interruptions. In all methodologies, you can see the thing that cuts down your productivity is interruptions. Jérémy is my business partner and when I asked him what is his main problem at the office, he responded : interruptions. I’m not saying we should not communicate but too much communication kills communication. Surveys and pilots conducted by IBM suggest that telework employees can be up to 50% more productive. In the mean time, the company cut their costs in car ride, real estate, electricity, office expenses etc.
A second advantage I see in work shifting is the attractiveness of your company. Work-life balance become a critical aspect when looking for a job. Providing flexible hours do not mean that your employees work less. It only means that they will manage their time more effectively. People will work with less stress and that’s a key productivity enabler. Imagine what thinks an employee who has an appointment with his doctor at 4pm. In his mind he thinks he must hurry to have finished. Precipitation decrease productivity ! If he works at home, the problem is solve. At 4pm, he goes to his appointment and after that he comes back to finish his tasks. And the end, your employee did his job without be stressed.
Of course, time to time you will have someone who doesn’t play the game and who will take advantage of that to work less or to be less productive but with good methodology and monitoring, you will see this person really quickly. In the other way, most of your collaborators will do their best to prove that work shifting benefits the company by working more and more efficiently.
The third big advantage in teleworking is real estate management. Real estate is a really big cost for our company. We work a lot with freelancers and depending on how many projects we have within the same time, the number of people at the office varies a lot. We have a big office which is full only 20% of the year. Considering one project, with our current methodology, we need only one full day with all the team present the same day at the same place. As we don’t have more then 7 people in a team, we can manage to have 5 teams present one day a week only. The rest of the time can be teleworking. That’s make a huge difference to have place for 35 people or only 7.
For small companies (less than 10) is even simpler. Solutions exist like in Brussels, The Betagroup propose coworking solutions. You pay as you use office. With one day a week, you will spend only 80 Euro per employee. A lot of social entrepreneurs work like that with The Hub.
I think offices are important for meet people, to exchange and to brainstorm. But a big part of our job can be done outside the office and by doing that we can gain a lot.
With this snowy winter it’s a good opportunity to test this kind of things. Let’s try!