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A workforce without walls

Posted: June 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Increasingly, today’s workforce is working anywhere from home to the road.

 

Local companies are taking advantage of the rapid advances in technology, changing the way their employees work and go to work — and they’re saving money doing so.

Today’s workforce is working increasingly in the field, from home or car, and even from distant locations around the world.
As a result, a growing mobile workforce is saving companies time and, more importantly, money.

“Anyone can work from anywhere at any time with any device,” said Mike Zozaya, borderless networks practice manager for Nexus of Valencia.

Linking continents
More than 8 million American workers telecommute to company jobs, said a study from the University of Oregon. The school estimates that 30 percent of the workforce may be telecommuting by the year 2020.

“It’s amazing when you get into the technology of teleconferencing,” said Don Hubbard, owner of WorkSafe Technologies of Valencia.

“Using WebEx, we’re able to bring our employees together with a potential client,” Hubbard said.

“We had a conference with an engineering group in San Francisco, a company in Korea, the nuclear power division of Westinghouse and one of our employees in St. Louis.”

A nuclear power plant in South Korea shared photos depicting problems it was facing. Each meeting participant, from all locations and all continents, could view both the presentation and photos.

“In the old days, this meeting would have resulted in several business trips back and forth,” Hubbard said. “It would have cost a lot of time and money.”

Cruise line
With thousands of employees and 16 ships sailing all over the world, Karen Candy, manager of media and public relations for Princess Cruises, said it’s imperative that the company is communicating 24/7.

A large portion of the Valencia company’s business is conducted via smartphones and laptops.

“We hold quarterly corporate teleconference meetings, including offices from Seattle to Australia,” Candy said. “We even have senior officers and ship captains calling in for those meetings.”

Growing mobility
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management reported in 2009 that nearly 103,000 federal employees “teleworked,” an increase of almost 9 percent over the prior year.

“More companies are moving toward telecommuting,” Zozaya said. “And more employees are more willing to take a pay cut to work at a company where they can work from wherever they want.”

There’s a shift within corporate cultures that had been resistant for a long time, he said. Now, companies such as Nexus are helping more companies set up networks for a mobile workforce that maintains security and protect assets.

Nexus recently had a pregnant employee, who could not physically travel to a trade show, attend the event as a virtual host. The company set it up so that she and the visitors to the company’s booth could see and speak with each other.

Benefits
Numerous studies cite increased productivity from mobile employees, and many report that employees often work longer hours than their officebound counterparts.

There are numerous benefits to telecommuting in addition to higher productivity and reduced absenteeism, experts said.
Among them are reduced expenses for office leases, and lower utility costs in power, heating, cooling and lighting use.

Some companies find they are able to retain good employees and attract strong candidates by offering telecommuting options.

“If a company is not riding the wave of change, you’ll find yourself beneath it and losing revenue,” Zozaya said.

Equipment savings
As a younger, more technically savvy generation enters the workforce, more employees in this age group want to use their own preferred devices as opposed to standard-issue company equipment.

Some companies are even providing their mobile employees with credit each year to buy their own equipment, Nexus said. And employees often shopped around and got better deals.

“There was a study done by an enterprise organization of a company that let their employees use their own smartphones, PCs or Macs — whatever the employee preferred,” Zozaya said.

“After, the IT department had to provide less support, stress went down, morale went up and their operating costs were cut in half,” he said.

Nexus reports that it has a very mobile workforce. More than 50 percent of the employees work in a place other than the reporting office.

Making it work
WorkSafe Technologies has an office and small warehouse, but the salespeople are in the field most of the time or work out of their home. Others are scattered throughout the country or world.

The drawback for some managers is learning how to manage a workforce they don’t see every day. But that hasn’t stopped Hubbard from taking advantage of the technology.

“We’re performance-based,” Hubbard said. “So it doesn’t matter where they’re located.”

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