Businesses are facing new challenges that demand innovative solutions. Corporate executives want to do more with less, employees want to achieve a better balance between their professional and personal lives and IT teams aim to bring in the latest technology securely. To achieve all of these goals, companies often fall back on their facilities managers, the individuals who are responsible for overseeing operational processes.
More facilities managers are coming up with the same solution - teleworking. With mobile technology rapidly advancing, many employees can now perform their regular duties from remote locations. Those who are traveling for business can log in remotely and submit work to meet project deadlines, while staff members who have a sick child can stay at home without missing work.
When organizations look to the future, the most innovative and successful leaders realize the potential that virtual workforces have to change the face of business. As organizations expand across the nation and around the globe, remote labor forces are becoming vital to business success.
Contrary to concerns that staff members may not perform well when out of their supervisors' sight, organizations have found that implementing a remote work policy can reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and boost employee satisfaction. In addition, companies can bolster their bottom lines with savings on real estate expenses and utilities costs.
Teleworking works for more businesses
More businesses are adopting remote working policies to capitalize on these benefits. This includes some of the biggest names in the United States like American Express. The credit card processing giant has developed an official policy called Blue Work, which divides its labor force up into four groups - roam, home, club and hub. Employees who roam are team members who work exclusively from the road. Home workers are given credits to outfit their offices. Club staff members perform tasks from a central location just a few days a week, while hub workers have permanent spots in central locations because they are in roles that require regular face-to-face meetings.
Essentially, American Express' policies were developed based on each roles' expectations, rather than an overarching policy or individuals' personal preferences, according to Forbes. Facilities managers are essential in the decision-making process because they are deeply embedded in daily operational processes. Using the specialized tools at their disposal, such as an integrated workplace management system (IWMS), FMs can determine how to strategically implement a telecommuting policy.
Creating collaborative workspaces
Facilities managers are developing collaborative workspaces to make efficient use of their real estate, reducing the amount of private offices spaces and even replacing cubicles with shared tables, impromptu meeting areas and conference rooms available for reservation.
The transition away from the traditional office floor plan has been embraced by Millennials and creative professionals who prefer to work in collaborative environments that foster teamwork. In fact, 80 percent of employees list working remotely as a benefit and 36 percent say they would choose telecommuting flexibility over a pay increase, the Telework Research Network ads.
To provide employees with the spaces they need to get the job done right, facilities managers often create a hoteling program, which enables workers to request conferences rooms, desk and equipment when they need to attend meetings or deliver project.
Reclaiming real estate
After boarding the telework bandwagon, businesses find they can cut back on the total square footage they need to accommodate workers without compromising workers' productivity. In one example, insurance giant Aetna discovered it could reduce its real estate needs by 2.7 million square feet through a shift from independent to shared workspaces, according to Forbes.
Seeing cost savings
At $29 per square foot, the firm managed to save an estimated $78 million per year. Aetna isn't alone in these astronomical expense reductions. The Telework Research Network reports that on average, a company that adopts a telecommuting policy can save approximately $10,000 per full-time employee every year as a result of the reductions in real estate and utilities costs. IBM also managed to recoup $50 million in real estate costs through a similar move, while Sun Microsystems saves $68 million per year in square footage.
iOffice has announced that it will soon introduce the OpenSpace feature as part of its IWMS offerings that help facilities managers make a seamless transition to telework arrangements. Occupants can use this web-based platform to easily view conference rooms, verify room capacity, check in and out of reservations and receive notifications about updates. With a facility management software, FMs can ensure home work policies maximize productivity and efficiency, while simultaneously optimizing tenant satisfaction.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance.