Guest Post from Jean Gagnon
Virtually all large businesses have been forced to spread in different buildings and cities, and have been using the telecommute model for years. If the co-worker is not in the same building, has reliable Internet access, a fax machine and a dedicated private and quiet office, one cannot tell if he is in a corporate or a home office.
Case in point: Ernst Publishing is a mid-size corporation that has been growing in double digits for the last few years because it is not afraid to leave the old ways behind and look ahead. Not that long ago Ernst Publishing’s main product was printed books. Within 15 years it has become entirely an electronic-based data provider and is not looking back. It is not afraid to Telecommute either, and has actually used it to its advantage for years. The technology department is on the East coast, and sales are on the West coast. Even the three-hour difference is hardly noticed, because customers are already spread all over the country. People in Client Services (CA and OH) are in daily communication with Software Development people (NY), so are people in Sales and Marketing (CA). Having core hours for meetings is really all that is required.
Physical presence is less and less a requirement in most knowledge-based industries today.
As far as good communications, it has been found that it is more a matter of attitude (some of us are guilty regarding people in our own home) and culture (why innovating while outsourcing to another culture is an uphill battle). We can lift the phone and speed-dial a co-worker in seconds. Software Developers at Ernst Publishing can actually work remote on computers that sit in a data center, and use a technology which allows them to share a screen within seconds. When one needs help, he just picks up the phone, shares his desktop and session with a co-worker and the problem is solved within minutes.
Because of the obvious advantages of a telecommute career, can more easily work outside traditional business hours as a mid-size business often requires. Telecommuting not only brings the operating costs down, but also the cost of growing a team to next to nothing: The high costs of maintaining a physical office growing at a multiple of the cost of living, the earlier a business gets these costs under control and develops a good Telecommute model the better it can compete and the fastest it can grow.
The best people in the business are not always ready to move, so not asking them to allows Ernst Publishing access to a much larger pool of high-quality professionals, which explains how it put together an extraordinary team that allowed an unprecedented growth.