Posted by: paragon | August 28, 2007

The Future of the Workplace: No Office, Headquarters in Cyberspace

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/story?id=3521725

Tele-worker Technology Solutions: http://www.ParagonHost.com (ParagonHost / TheSpamBusters / ScanDefense)

Imagine a work world with no commute, no corporate headquarters and perhaps not even an office in the physical world at all.

For Bob Flavin, a computer scientist at IBM; Janet Hoffman, an executive at a management consulting firm; and Joseph Jaffe, a marketing entrepreneur, the future is already here.

“These days we do so much by teleconference it really doesn’t matter where you are,” Flavin said.

Like 42 percent of IBM’s 350,000 employees, Flavin rarely comes in to an IBM office.

“We don’t care where and how you get your work done,” said Dan Pelino, general manager of IBM’s global health care and life sciences business. “We care that you get your work done.”

IBM says it saves $100 million a year in real estate costs because it doesn’t need the offices.

Head to Work, in Cyberspace

On the day we met Flavin, he was collaborating with computer scientists in British Columbia and Beijing from the on-call room of the local ambulance corps where he works as a volunteer.

The work force at the Accenture management consulting firm is so mobile not even the CEO has an office with his name on the door.

With no corporate headquarters, if you need a work space, you reserve it like a hotel room — checking in and out at a kiosk.

“Having a big desk as a sign of status with lots of family photos and you know, carpeting that’s fluffy and nice, that is a vision of the past,” said Hoffman, executive vice president of Accenture.

In the future, more companies with scattered work forces and clients may do what the marketing firm Crayon is doing: making its headquarters in cyberspace.

Crayon’s workers rarely meet in the physical world — some are in Boston, others are in Nutley, N.J. — but their online alter egos in the virtual world gather once a week.

We never met Crayon’s CEO in person but we spent a couple of hours together in cyberspace.

“Our belief is if we bring like minds together no matter where they are in the world we can actually create that connectedness as if we’re actually at the same place at the same time,” said Jaffe, Crayon’s CEO.

Maintaining a community is essential at IBM, where Pelino said isolation is a “significant” issue. There’s even a joke at the company that the name stands for “I’m by Myself.”

“The casual meeting of colleagues in the cafeteria or at the water cooler is actually quite valuable and something you find you eventually miss when working at home,” Flavin said. “We actually have to deliberately schedule some common lunches to make sure that we keep in contact.”

The company has also started to organize spirit clubs to foster a community. As Pelino put it, “You have to create these types of venues where you bring people together and magical things start to happen.”

I am currently housebound with a broken leg, but able to work from home if a progressive organization would be interested in putting my IT skills to work for them from my home. I have worked in a hospital setting using LANDesk Remote Control Agent to perform softare upgrades, hardware diagnostics, and program installations and troubleshooting, and I use DAMEWARE to remotely access the three other desktops within my home to install and troubleshoot them. Working from home would be ideal for me in my current condition, and I would be able to be a lot more productive because I could focus on my work in the privacy of my own home without distractions and restraints due to travel and commuting.

Posted by:
technician-member 3:19 AM

In my current state – temporarily disabled from an accident I had earlier this year, I would look forward to work resolving computer issues remotely from my home for any company out there willing to put skills to work for them. I’ve done from within a hospital – LANDesk Remote Control Agent; why couldn’t I do it from my own desktop at home?

Posted by:
technician-member 3:13 AM

As someone who works “virtual” for a major aerospace company in Seattle, I don’t care if my giant corporate employer has any humanity. I know, I am only as valuable as my output. I don’t have a problem with that, because I get to work in my PJ’s, and at noon, when I take my lunch break, I can go pick my son up from kindergarten. Did I mention I no longer BLOW 10 to 15 hours every week sitting in traffic? I love my job. I love my job. I love my job.

Posted by:
icantrememberitdontwantotoeither 12:53 AM

Seems a mixed bag..pro’s and con’s. Interesting concept tho. I did something similar to this for about 5 years with the company I worked for, and actually in the early to mid 90’s. I had a good balance…when I felt like not being in the “office” I worked at home…but after a few days of that, I rather enjoyed going in. Funny thing, at the end of the year, when I had 3 weeks vacation left and had to use it in December….but I seemed to have never missed my time off during the year when I needed or wanted it…..shhhhh….my ex-boss might be reading this.

Posted by:
zrcg02 12:06 AM

“If I could do my work from home 100% of the time then why can’t they just replace me with someone from India making $5 per hour? As long as they have a phone and an Internet connection.”Actually, they already do that. That’s the catch of all this telecommuting. Donnie Deutsch appeared on TV recently talking about what kinds of jobs would be in less danger of global offshoring — the very obviously safer jobs. Basically, anything requiring face-to-face interaction or physical presence. After all, an EMT can’t save a person or rush an injured person to the hospital in an ambulance remotely!Also, not everyone is suited to telecommuting. It takes a certain conscientiousness and discipline, which, frankly, not everyone has. So, if I were the boss, I’d require physical presence during some probationary period and then allow for more flexible work arrangements once a new employee is more tried and true.As for myself, I like telecommuting most of the time and then travelling to client sites as the need arises.

Posted by:
raggedyac Aug-27

Ahh…but do most management types know that “people are more than their output”? I’m not so sure. Large corporations have come to treat employees as things, not people. There’s no humanity or emotions in big business. They all have hearts of ice.

Posted by:
raggedyac Aug-27

I’ve been telecommuniting from home for going on three years now and I love it after 9 years on the road. I work for an IT firm with business and clients all over the US so having folks all in one city doesn’t make sense for our organization. That doesn’t mean we don’t have an office as we do but I’d say more than 70% of our workforce doesn’t work from it. Obviously, not all organizations can pursue this option but where feasible, it does makes sense. From the IT consulting side, once the client gets use to the idea of not having you on-site but on the project, it seems to work very well. Also, the lower bill rates vs on-site consultant rates are also very attractive to clients not to mention their not having to pay/reimburse for flights, hotels, meals, etc… Working from home does take a little getting use to but our teams stay in contact via Instant messaging and have weekly calls with clients and management. I keep pinching myself and hoping this keeps going as the nine years of travel burned me out but I will just have to wait and see and hope that my companies position in the software market remains strong as that position is really dependent upon the software and the companies we partner with. Do I miss “office life”? Sometimes but I do love the freedom of working from home and I do not miss the travel one bit.

Posted by:
workingfromhome500 Aug-27

“If I could do my work from home 100% of the time then why can’t they just replace me with someone from India making $5 per hour? As long as they have a phone and an Internet connection.”That’s the point. They can, and they do. Donnie Deutsch was just on TV not long ago talking about which jobs are relatively more secure from offshoring — anything that requires face-to-face interaction and physical presence (e.g., an EMT can’t help you remotely). Anything digital/electronic is susceptible to offshoring.However, at the same time, not everyone is suited to telecommuting. Only conscientious workers with sufficient discipline are suited to it. So, if I were a boss, I would definitely require someone be “tried and true” in the office first and then if the worker is trusted and reliable, flexible work arrangements won’t be a problem.

Posted by:
raggedyac Aug-27

Yes!!! Me,Land Developer Man, will now build many mighty high-rises with luxurious condos rented out for CEO’s CFO’s MBA’s and other boss men types, mixed with offices for the same (wife-free-zones). For the trophy wives, shopping malls in the skyscrapers! And I am not talking LA, NY, SF or even N’Orleans. NO! My first project is in LEWISTOWN, MT. Citizens of Lewistown unite!! The tax $$ from these Fortune 4000 companies will fill ALL of your potholes!!!!

Posted by:
May181980 Aug-27

Is there really a story here? 40 years ago people were doing telemarketing from their home phones, selling cosmetics, household brushes and food storage containers and a host of other activities. Sales pepole have known the virtual workplace for years. It’s called the road. The fact that someone sits at home and drools over computer screens, PDA’s and any other electronic communication gadget doesn’t make this a new cottage industry. As for the lost interactivity between people, how long can you sit around and listen to people talking about gigabytes, microprocessors, etc? And then watch them incessently poke about on blackberry’s and then go to 90 decibels on their mobile phones? Forget it. Most of you are working from home because of your anti-social skills! How many more dweebs do we need with those silly white earphones sticking out of the side of their head? If you don’t think of yourself as such, try putting all of your ‘stuff’ in a shopping bag for one week and go about doing something useful. Sorry about the rant, but it felt good. I just had to sit beside some i-pod dolt on a NY-SF flight that thought he was James Brown.

Posted by:
tsfleck Aug-27

I agree with some of each side here, as I’ve worked in places that allowed this. However, there are more downsides from my experience:- Isolation sets in very quickly. Without physical presence, you start to lose connectedness with others.- You are on a virtual leash. Even though you are supposedly more free, the opposite is true. You end up working more hours and are always on the clock. You will note that places that do this are all salaried positions. The reason is because they expect you to work around the clock.- Things which used to be quickly resolved take longer, because you need to track someone down (as opposed to walking over to their desk in a real environment).- When others are remote, they are more rude. It’s much easier to be a jerk behind a computer screen then to someone’s face.- As others have rightly noted, why pay someone in the United States much more in salary and benefits when it can be outsourced to another cheaper country just as easily? It reminds me of the attendants in supermarkets who watch the “EZ Checkout” systems with a smile. Has it occurred to them that they are working themselves out of a job? The same rationale applies here. Yes, I may be old fashioned. While I do see the benefits in environmental costs, real estate savings, and the rest of the arguments in favor of virtual offices, I think in reality the concept is a bad idea. There is simply no substitute for reality. Virtualization taken to its logical conclusions will be the end of all of us. If you can virtualize something, you can cheapen it. Rather than a living, breathing human being, the person who you are working with across the country, world, or state is a dot on a screen or an icon in the systray. While this concept would appear to lead to a more equitable meritocracy (and indeed, it can to a degree), the bottom line is that people are more than their output.

Posted by:
VirtualVoid Aug-27

The 10412 people are all located in the borders of the United States of America by the way.

Posted by:
Global Expat Aug-27

This is all very nice. But as long as the laws of physics remain, I have 10,412 people to manage in a huge manufacturing line that takes optimal global supply chain managment, operations management, planning, and strategic thinking among team members that email, voice mail, and other virtual BS can’t solve.And by the way, customers like the face to face approach. Don’t sell your airline stocks yet. This may work for SAP geeks and ad execs, as well as 2000 dollar consultants who have never worked a day in their life, but in reality, my Harvard MBA teaches me that people need leadership and leadership needs people. Compete or die.

Posted by:
Global Expat Aug-27

Telecommuting is still the biggest joke. Corporate management is all for it, as long as it doesn’t actually take place and everyone continues to come to work for 8+ hours per day. Corporate managers are mostly a bunch of alcoholic neanderthals. Hopefully the sexual diseases will get them.

Posted by:
neworbits Aug-27

Telecommuting is the most hyped yet the biggest joke in the history of IT. Most everything is still ruled by neanderthal menatlities like that in “The Office”. They’re all for telecommuting as long as everyone continues coming to the office every day for 8+ hours. That’s corporate management in a nutshell.

Posted by:
neworbits Aug-27

Telework is great for all of us. It not only saves time and money and gas for those doing it and their employers, but for the rest of us (reduced commuting costs by reducing congestion.) More energy independence, less greenhouse gases, more time for family. There should be a crash program to encourage this practice as widely as possible.Neil Bates, Virginia

Posted by:
neilabc Aug-27

This telework concept is great, and the greatest contribution it makes to our society is: saving time and gas and vehicle wear for the millions who work this way. Not only that, the roads are less congested for the folks still working conventionally, saving even more money (less gas wasted in commute.) There should be a crash program to encourage this business model across the nation.Neil Bates, Virginia

Posted by:
neilabc Aug-27

It would have been nice if the story had mentioned Crayonville was in Second Life, just for journalistic accuracy and completeness. As visual as SL is for a virtual office–and thus cool for tv news–I failed to see how work was being done. As for the future of office in general, it would have been nice to have shown greater emphasis on email, voicemail and even video mail, text messaging, livechat, voice chat or even video conferencing. Also, until you have companies that only do correspondence electronically (e.g., phone, email, etc.), it would seem like one would still need a SMALL office to handle printed correspondence, even if it’s nothing but opening mail and feeding it into a text scanner to be emailed to the appropriate staffers and backed up on corporate servers leased out to minimize the corporate “footprint”. That’s getting easier all the time as companies are willing to switch to online billing to save on the cost of printing and postage.– Ken from ChicagoP.S. As for needing people onsite to handle robots, uh, no, you could just have OTHER robots–even if they are remotely controlled by people elsewhere or preprogrammed how to do simple maintenance (e.g., changing batteries, light bulbs, etc.). Robots could be made to be serviceable by other robots and vice versa.

Posted by:
Ken_From_Chicago Aug-27

I’m a writer and creative director in the advertising business. Essentially, I’ve been working this way for the last 4 years. And in some respects, well before that.I’m on retainer to a client who founded their company on this basis. They have some “real world” presence. But, the large amjority of their employees and contractors work wherever they feel like it. And live all around the country, in whatever city or town they like.I discovered 7 years ago, after spending half a million bucks to build out cool looking offices, that the clients weren’t much interested in visiting their ad agency anymore. Except, maybe, the day you pitched them.Not sure they even care about that anymore. Just come to them.ChanComml@gmail.com

Posted by:
NicePlanet Aug-27

I work for one of the major telecom companies and telecommuting is policy in the division for which I work. With numerous tools such as instant messenging, NetMeeting, and teleconferencing working in the privacy of my home is excellent. I am able to interact with coworkers the two days a week that I am required to go into the office. Everyone seems to have adjusted to the work from home home policy… Every company and and every individual is different.

Posted by:
freetobeme69 Aug-27

I’d consider going back to work if I didn’t have to go to an office everyday. Who needs the commute, the politics, the germs, or the old dusty buildings.

Posted by:
Grandma_Lewis Aug-27

We use e/pop Video Conferencing to have “virtual meetings” and reduce travel. We still have an office, but makes communication a million times better.

Posted by:
leoisgreat Aug-27

I work from home right now and have done so for the past 7 months. It is FANTASTIC. I work in the virtual world of Second Life and the company I work for is spread all over the USA. I couldnt imagine a better scenario. While I do work longer hours than ever before, I don’t have a communte anymore and I see my family much more.

Posted by:
d13vk Aug-27

Big companies are proving this theory everyday…when they move their IT, accounting, and customer service jobs to India for a 1/3 of the cost of a person here.

Posted by:
silky_an Aug-27

I’ve worked in this sort of environment since it’s inception in advertising agencies the early 90s. The pros: power is invested in individuals, not office space, so you don’t have people tearing at each other for the corner office. It generates a much more of a meritocracy. The cons: you really do need to know people face to face, because companies are living organisms in a way, and a total lack of human interaction creates its own problems. Most companies that are experimenting with the total virtual office concept will find that they will fall back to a middle ground. They would do well to study the early pioneers of this type of corporate environment, before they rush headlong into it. Some people need the structure of an office, others do not, or not all of the time. I prefer it, and my small business is run this way (I rarely if ever meet my clients), but I always enjoy it when I have to “go into the office” and work side by side with people for a season.

Posted by:
PingPongNow Aug-27

Tele-worker Technology Solutions: http://www.ParagonHost.com (ParagonHost / TheSpamBusters / ScanDefense)

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