Thursday, July 24, 2008

Don't Layoff Employees, Evict Them

The life of an employee today is one of feast and famine at best. In good times you have way too much work to do and fear for your job if you complain. In lean times you have way too much work to do and fear for your job regardless of what you say. Layoffs are always looming like a dark shadow over the organization. But what if you could be evicted rather than laid off? Wouldn't that be better?

I know what you're thinking: "This is nuts." Getting kicked out of your home is certainly no better than getting kicked out of your job. But that's not what I'm talking about. The idea gaining popularity among managers is to evict employees not from their homes, but from their offices. You stay on the payroll. You just don't set foot on the premises. Oh, and you have to get your job done too.

The popular term for this is telecommuting. The idea is that many, if not most, employees of today's information intensive companies can work just as well from home. In some cases their productivity soars because the opportunities to socialize with other employees disappears and they aren't trying to remotely manage a myriad of personal concerns, such as child care.

Think about it. How much of your workday do you spend sequestered in a cubicle staring at a video display and pecking away at a keyboard? Or, how much of your time is spent on the telephone while perhaps also using a computer? Is there really something sacred about the hallowed ground of the corporate center that makes it imperative that you sit there and only there to do the job? Probably not.

But what about meetings? You have to have meetings or you're not a team. Yeah, right. How much of those meetings are a complete waste of time, as you wait for all the members to saunter in and quiet down. The rest is also a waste of time or could be handled via email, Webcast, teleconference or video conference.

But what about supervision? Everybody knows employees work harder when the boss is breathing down their neck. Yeah, right. If a job can be measured and status objectively tracked and reported, there is no longer a need for the long arm of intimidating management. There is still a need for training, coaching and evaluation. Some of that is still best done face to face and can be scheduled for office visits.

By having employees visit the office when needed instead of squatting there in dedicated personal space, the need for expensive real estate is dramatically reduced. With less floor space required, there is a proportional reduction in heating, cooling, plumbing and lighting expenses. What replaces those is a telecommunication expense that's just a fraction of the expense eliminated.

Telecommuting has been used as a "perk" for trusted employees to give them more flexibility in their schedule and hopefully keep their critical skills on staff. But now it's becoming a cost saving strategy for the many rather than only the chosen few.

The company sets up telephone communications and broadband Internet, often with VPN software to maintain security. An MPLS network can provide many to many connections with a higher degree of performance and reliability than your typical residential broadband services. Some employers also provide computing and telephone equipment just like they would if you were on premises.

Other businesses are organized as "virtual companies" from the get-go. There is no corporate center. Instead, all of the team members are on a virtual PBX telephone system that works just like a business phone system with users scattered around the country. Customers and suppliers have no idea the operation is distributed because they still dial a central number and even have "virtual" operator service.

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