Office cost-cutting

I'm feeling opinionated today. Have another work-related post! :-)

Seth Godin is a wise, wise man. He has a perspective on what makes marketing and consumers tick that constantly amazes me. I'm regularly blown away by stuff he comes up with - and things he makes me think about. Even if he hasn't actually written them.

Take yesterday's post, for example. It's all about the new standards for meetings, in this day and age of expensive travel and cheap telecommunications.

Of course, that got me thinking telecommuting again. Well... in a roundabout way.

Seth mentions this:
If you're a knowledge worker, your boss shouldn't make you come to the (expensive) office every day unless there's something there that makes it worth your trip. She needs to provide you with resources or interactions or energy you can't find at home or at Starbucks. And if she does invite you in, don't bother showing up if you're just going to sit quietly.

I've worked in three companies that had lots of people and lots of cubes, and I spent the entire day walking around. I figured that was my job. The days where I sat down and did what looked like work were my least effective days. It's hard for me to see why you'd bother having someone come all the way to an office just to sit in a cube and type.
Now sitting in a cube and typing is basically what my entire day consists of! :-)

And that doesn't actually require my presence at an office, nor an hour's commute both ways. At least not every day. And it's not just me. Every day there are a large number of folk who can (and do in fact) work from home - getting things done a lot easier and quicker than they would at the office, without having to fire up the vehicle.

I work for a high-tech company that does awesome stuff with technology - and yet there seems to be a block when it comes to implementing the same for the workers at floor level. Yes, I can understand security issues (there was an incident last year that wasn't pretty), but I can't help wondering how those balance out cost and productivity.

Let's say half the folk at the office could get in the same amount of work (or more) by working off-site*. That cuts down on required floor space by half - and cuts down on rent, electricity use, office equipment and use of the coffee machine (which I'm convinced uses more electricity than all the servers here thanks to being constantly in demand!). Make a few desks available to share for those who have to come in now and then, and you're sorted. Based on Seth's post - get them into the office when you have something important for them to do, and make sure they know why they're there. Use your face time with your workers in the best possible way, a way that will aid both you and them - no mindless ramblings, just stick to the point.

(*Note: Telecommuting takes careful planning and setting up to work. It's not for everyone - and it definitely requires discipline!)

Now... start paying per job instead of per clocked hour and see how productivity hits the roof! I have a friend who builds pools. Once he stopped paying by the hour he literally couldn't keep up with how quickly his workers powered through their contracts.

Take all that nifty technology and automate as many functions as you can. Give your workers online access to as much self-managed info as possible, then cut your HR team accordingly. Take out extra paper use by emailing all the stuff you normally print out and give to them. Encourage e-documentation, e-faxing, e-everything.

All that equipment you're currently providing? Set up each new employee with a once-off equipment allowance to buy their own computer and other stuff needed. It's theirs - theirs to insure, to fix, to replace, to keep if they leave your employ. Not yours. Runs on their electricity too, as they're working off-site.

See how nice and cost-saving this whole thing can be? Unfortunately I may be the only one who thinks this way.. :-)

Hence the lack of option to telecommute for my job, and why you'll find me battling the dark winter mornings every day. But hey, that's life.