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How to Build a Remote Work Force
What to consider when placing employees at home

Digital Workforce
September 16, 2008

A few years back, a colleague of mine was working on the project to design a new corporate headquarters for his company. He worked it out to the actual dollar cost(s) of a cubicle, from hardware to office furniture, to utilities and even the stapler. Not counting the computer and phone, the cost ran at the time to be about $9600 per cube. He immediately realized that there was significant cost savings to be considered for reconfiguring some level of his staff to work remotely. But, and there are many buts, would the culture support it? Could he track productivity? What came next?

Of course, there are still questions and concerns.
The questions that managers have about remote work are always the same:

How do I know if the worker is being productive?
How do I measure a remote employee?
What will I lose when the worker isn't local?
Are there more costs involved?

The answers to the first two questions are much more reflective of the manager. How do you measure your employee's productivity now? By watching whether she is at her desk or not? Measurements are built around deliverables, around availability, and around improvements in productivity and quality. There are numbers to measure all these things, should an issue arise.

The third question, about what one loses when a worker is remote, is dependent on the business. Can your organization use remote tools like conference calling and the occasional video conference to maintain contact? Do email and alternate communications tools like IM give you enough coverage? Usually, what gets cut out when someone isn't located at the physical office falls into two categories: business networking, or serendipitous opportunity?

These are both useful occasions, and shouldn't be discounted lightly, but most managers and supervisors will know their work environment, and whether the benefits of working remotely outweigh any potential loss of opportunity from not having those two experiences happen as often.

Finally, on the matter of cost, the answer is easy: no. It costs less to host someone remotely in several ways. The computer equipment costs are less. The networking and infrastructure costs are less. The added expense of telecommunications like a robust Broadband connection for a laptop can be absorbed easily into the rest of the communications/ IT budget.