Balancing the Future of Business in a Virtual World
Organizations are adopting en masse a remote, work-from-home business model. These businesses, varying in size, are noticing that the benefits of telecommuting could reach far beyond their initial cost-benefit analysis. But is such an about-face from traditional brick-and-mortar establishments really better for business?
The deep-rooted philosophy that employees are most productive between nine in the morning and five in the afternoon appears to be losing a bit of its 80-year-old steam. Enter Nicholas Bloom. He studied a travel-based call center’s decision to shift a decent chunk of its staff to the remote, virtual world. After nine months of measuring the benefits of working from home versus logging hours in a cubicle, the results were surprising:
-Productivity increased by 13.5 percent
-Sick days drastically decreased
-Employees chose to work longer hours
-The call center saved $1,300 per month per employee
The other side of the coin
While those numbers speak volumes, not all companies find the savings outweigh the benefits of having its staff in-house. Remember Yahoo’s 2013 ban? CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to pull the plug on the web destination’s telecommuting benefit, banning employees from the luxury of working remotely, arguably ruffled a lot of feathers. However, the ban was a necessary call to action that Mayer defended tooth and nail: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.” For Yahoo!, Mayer believed productivity suffered from employees working from home.
Bloom’s report explained that the more automated the work — like a call center — the easier it is to measure true productivity. Regardless, he believes that “with most jobs, a good rule of thumb is to let employees have one to two days a week at home. It’s hugely beneficial to their well-being, helps you attract talent, and lowers attrition.” So, where’s the real happy medium?
It’s delicate — like harmonizing your salad intake with your love of craft beer. Finding a balance somewhere between complete virtuality and brick-and-mortar is what CEO of INFOCU5, Jake Bush, set out to curate. Sussing out an environment to lower turnover and increase flexibility for employees came by way of his Connect HUBS. The contact center solution arm of the software company, Connect is working to reinvent the space.
Agents train for two weeks in one of the INFOCU5 HUBs — located in Pasadena, Boston, Denver, and Telluride, Colorado. After completing training, agents are free to roam and work from anywhere. Bush noted that “stepping outside of the traditional call center space gives access to a wider pool of talent.” Sleek and modern, the HUBs foster a supportive communal vibe for colleagues to have fun and collaborate. However, when it comes to working, Bush believes, “Where you feel inspired is where you are most productive. It doesn’t matter where you work.”
A 2014 Gallop Poll discovered that employees do in fact demonstrate a more dedicated and productive work ethic when they work from home 20 percent of the time. It appears Bush may be onto something. Striking a balance between a collaborative office space and offering employees the freedom to work from home (or anywhere) may be just the ticket.