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Trending: Collocation vs. Telecommuting

Trending: Collocation vs. Telecommuting

Just when telecommuting is becoming a standard business practice, a number of major corporations are shifting back toward collocation. Collocation seems so last century, with its long commutes and claustrophobic cubicles. So why are the pioneers of telecommuting, including IBM, Yahoo, and Bank of America, reducing or eliminating their telecommuting programs?

As reported in All Tech Considered, business analysts point to two compelling reasons behind the collocation movement: the speed of technology, and the wisdom of experience. In the realm of technology, connectivity has led to the “always-open” business. Customers expect immediate responses to work orders and problems. The use of real-time data rewards companies that act swiftly on market intelligence. When nimbleness and responsiveness are vital, issues can often be addressed more quickly by a collocated team, especially if competitors’ distributed teams are spread over many time zones.

Experience, too, is more easily gained in person, by observing the techniques of more senior workers. Millennial employees in particular cite the value of watching their older peers in action, and say they feel disconnected and unmotivated when they can’t collaborate with seasoned employees. And “face time” is a factor when a promotion is on the line.

Nevertheless, telework makes so much sense for many businesses. They have access to the best employees globally, without having to relocate them. Telecommuting has been shown to boost productivity, improve morale, and decrease healthcare spending. And there’s the benefit of lower real estate costs; if you don’t need all your employees in the office at all times, you can reduce your overall office space needs.

The current trend toward collocation is really a movement toward balance. With studies showing a mix of telecommuting and collocation as healthier than a daily commute, and with employees’ desire for telework becoming a factor in hiring, telecommuting isn’t going away any time soon. But for many companies, a proportion of collocation and telecommuting can yield optimal results.

For office facilities, this balancing act calls for a high degree of flexibility to meet fluctuating office space needs. Adaptive furnishings that set up quickly and easily, and store compactly when not in use, let office managers change their seating capacity on an ad-hoc basis. Space-efficient vertical storage carousels and high-density storage systems free up space for additional workstations without expanding an office’s existing real estate footprint.

All this responsiveness requires teams to communicate well. Schedules and head counts must be shared among all the productivity stakeholders: facilities management, HR, and team management. But with open communication channels and a flexible office environment, your business can enjoy all the benefits of both collocation and telecommuting.


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