Many of you already know this because you, or your company has partially, or even fully embraced this concept: technology continues to expand the way businesses can take advantage of remote workforces and telecommuting. According to BusinessInsider.com, the number of people working remotely or telecommuting in the US has grown by nearly 80% from 2005 through 2012. However, the actual number of people working in this fashion (3.3m, not including the self-employed) still only comprises less than 3% of the total American workforce.
Despite the gains telecommuting has been making in the business world, many more companies still cling to the more traditional office-bound cultures, even such as Yahoo, where former Googler and now CEO Marrisa Meyer infamously rescinded Yahoo’s extensive telecommuting labor policy, citing the need for more teamwork and collaboration. This is perhaps the most popular justification for eschewing a dispersed workforce, but many successful small business, both startups as well as established business are taking advantage of the decreased overhead and a happier, more productive workforce, and the internet is making collaborating over distance easier every day.
What this means for you:
As a small business owner, or someone who is looking to shake up the culture of a more traditional work environment, the arguments for decreasing real estate expenses, infrastructure costs and administrative overhead will come fairly easily. However, be prepared to answer how you will maintain or even improve collaboration and teamwork, especially now if your staff can no longer pile (physically) into a single conference room with a few minutes notice. Security, standards compliance, quality control and performance management will also require new processes and new ways of thinking, and as we all know, change never comes easy, especially when someone’s paycheck or dividend is on the line.
All of the preceding challenges can be met with current technology that is affordable and often easy to use, but if you buy a bunch of laptops and webcams and ditch the cubicle farm without preparing both your people and your business, you may be in for a rude surprise. As is always the case, plan carefully how you implement technology: the easiest step is purchasing shiny new toys. The hard part is implementing them properly and securely, and making sure they are properly aligned with your business.
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