Submitted by Larry Bellehumeur on 

I saw some recent articles about how many companies are still not embracing telecommuting and it is a shame.  Sure, Marissa, I get why you feel that Yahoo needs to have all of their employees sit in traffic for hours to get to the office in California.  There is always some added benefit to sitting face to face with your colleagues.  I also understand the argument that not every job can be done via telecommuting....I think an ER would be a much different place if that was the case.

However, I think the recent "Polar Vortex" that brought nasty winter conditions to much of the US may have helped some companies re-think this strategy. After all, for many places that are not used to such winter conditions, the combination of under-inflated all-season tires and drivers who are unfamiliar with "winter driving physics" made for an accident-filled commute.  But, as important as worker safety is, that isn't the only reason why companies need to embrace it.  And, to tie it back to my M2M background, let’s review how M2M solutions can help bolster the effectiveness of a remote worker.

"Stuff is more computer and less mechanical now"

During a recent service visit at the car dealership, I was in a position to watch the technicians working.  They used a computer more than they ever seemed to use their classic "mechanic" tools.  I asked them about it, and their response was "parts are so much more durable than they used to be, so the failure rate is much lower.  We end up making adjustments to the timing and settings most of the time and that involves the computer".  With many repair jobs, this is more and more the norm.  When technicians get out on-site, they are often making adjustments and not repairs.  Because of this, many "repairs" can actually be done remotely.....assuming of course that they have installed an M2M solution at the site! 

The connection is often faster wirelessly than in the office anyways many of you see higher speeds when tethered to your desk at work than you would see using an LTE-based connection?  Not many, I would guess.  I remember my early days at IBM when remote working meant "dial-up" (for those of you under 25, we had to use our phone lines to go on the Internet…now, go back to texting).  In this case, there was a huge drop in speed to work from home, and it meant that you could not easily work from a coffee shop (or, your cottage for that matter).  Times have changed.....workers can be so much more productive using cellular speeds.  As well, the proliferation of tablets and smartphones has made it so much easier to make "that quick change".... within seconds, you can log on to a server, make the change and then go back to sipping your latte on your deck, um, I mean back to work.

Mobile office = faster response times, when needed.

I remember working with one company, who repaired/serviced bank machines around the Boston area.  Now, I love Boston, it is one of my favourite cities anywhere.  However, I do not like Boston traffic....the expression "I could walk there faster" often comes to mind.  This company was located in the outskirts of Boston, and they had to service a large number of units all over the area, including a number of them downtown.  Ironically, a couple of their technicians lived fairly close to downtown, and much closer than the office that they had to drive to each day.  So, whenever they had a call downtown, they used to have to get in their car and fight traffic for an hour or more.....or about 5x longer than they would have had to if they worked from home.  However, the company did not want to allow remote connectivity because "we have never had it before".  If you have a workforce that is well spread out across a municipality area, you might want to consider using their homes as "remote offices" to provide you with better coverage for your customers.  It will also reduce driving time and vehicle costs.

Bottom Line

It still irks me that a company as high-tech (or, at least in the technology space) as Yahoo made a bonehead move to cut down on remote workers.  With companies trying to reduce their environmental impact, reducing driving time makes sense.  It also makes for happier employees, which tends to pay off well in the long haul.

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