Digital Nomads-The future of the office

Wed, Feb 25, 2009

Productivity Tools, Social Media is an informative site where users share experiences working away from the office; a growing workforce in the 21st century.  For a company to succeed with this option, being able to measure an employee’s performance is essential.

Many people in the workforce would love to have the option to telecommute or work with co-workers off site. Working as a headhunter, I have had candidates express the desire for flexible work hours for years. Let me ask you a question, if two companies offered you the same job and title, but only one offered flexible work options, which one would you choose?  Hmmmm, lets think about that…

We cannot ignore the fact that people will always have the need to congregate and work together. At, you can read about co-workers traveling together to different spots where they have wifi, turning any coffee house into an office.  For example, Panera cafe near my house has a conference table that easily sits ten people, offering a great place to work on a project. If I was a betting man, I would say telecommuting is going to grow exponentially in the coming years.   

 Article from Pittsburgh Business Times

Is business rethinking telecommuting?

Although AT&T, Hewlett-Packard and some other big companies have recently reined in employees who work outside the office, telecommuting shows no sign of abating in the Pittsburgh region.

Moreover, advocates say the practice will expand in response to the need for increased worker flexibility and convenience.

"It’s not in any way a shift to say this isn’t working," said Debra Dinnocenzo, president of Wexford-based VirtualWorks!, a company that helps businesses with telecommuting issues.

Telecommuting has become synonymous with the laptop computer, which was perfected for use by executives in the early 1980s. Amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990 required cities with smog problems to reduce pollution levels, focusing on telecommuting as part of the solution.

AT&T was among the first corporations to embrace telecommuting on a big scale. By 1995, 38 percent of AT&T managers were either telecommuting or had "virtual offices," which allowed them to work anywhere, according to the company.

Technological improvements in laptops since then, combined with the emergence of the global economy and, more lately, employee concerns about work-life balance issues, means the idea will be around for awhile.

Although telecommuting has not caught on as big in the Pittsburgh area as elsewhere, Dinnocenzo said, many companies embrace the practice. There are no plans to reduce telecommuting at the Downtown office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, where around 65 percent of the office’s 84 employees work from remote locations up to three days a week, according to Director Cheryle Campbell.

"We’ve been doing this for a number of years," she said. "It’s a national HUD policy."

At PNC Financial Services Group Inc., telecommuting is spreading, according to Kathy D’Appolonia, senior vice president of work life and diversity. Employees have embraced the idea, she said, which is being offered to an increasing number of employees where applicable.

Roughly one-third of PNC’s 28,000 employees telecommute, and a pilot is underway for people who service general accounts to work from home, D’Appolonia said. About 15 people are participating in the pilot, which is expected to increase to 125 by year’s end and eventually comprise 200 people.

Fueling the telecommuting movement was the advent of high-speed Internet access in the home, according to Brenda Vester, vice president of Green Tree-based business consultant Lee Hecht Harrison. Younger employees are especially attracted to the option, she said.

"If I can get the work done, why do I have to come in here?" she said. "It’s just a different way of working.

"It’s most definitely going to increase."

But telecommuting only works well when management has an effective way of measuring performance, Dinnocenzo said, and working from home will never be possible for some jobs — think the UPS driver. In addition, some employees will find the adjustment to working out of the office difficult because of the lack of social contact.

"We’re innately social beings," Dinnocenzo said. "We actually like being together."

Still, studies have supported the value of telecommuting, including a Penn State University analysis last year that found that telecommuters reported increased job satisfaction, more motivation to stay with an employer, less stress and improved work-family balance.

A common error managers make is in equating office presence with productivity. The reality is the office is full of distractions that actually give telecommuting a 30 percent edge in productivity, according to Dinnocenzo.

"If they have their eyes open and a blood pressure, we think they’re working," she said.

And at AT&T, which has a call center in the Strip District, the number of employees who are allowed to work remotely is increasing, according to spokesman Walt Sharp. Of the communication giant’s work force of 309,000 people, half have the option of working out of the office.

"The trend is toward more teleworking," Sharp said. The recent pullback at the company only affected employees who work at home, versus the number of people who work at remote locations, a "tiny, tiny fraction" of the number who work away from the office, he said.



Recommended tools from nomads to make our lives easier


Microsoft Windows Live
A suite of online tools that enable e-mail, instant messenger, online data storage, photo galleries and blogging, all in one spot.
Software you can use to make telephone calls over the Internet — very inexpensively!
Google Docs
A web-based word processor, spreadsheet and presentation application suite that enables you to create and edit documents online collaborating with your colleagues.
A nifty little service that converts your voice into e-mails, text messages, reminders, lists and appointments.
A social networking and micro-blogging tool that enables you to send updates (known as ‘tweets’) made up of 140 characters or less. Once you try it, you’ll find it addictive.
Adobe Air
A hybrid app platform designed to give users access to Internet applications without the need for a browser.
Want an alternative to Google Docs? Take a look at a lesser known suite of online applications from Zoho. The applications are free for individuals and some have a subscription fee for organizations. Zoho’s vision is to provide its customers (individuals, students, educators, non-profits, small and medium sized businesses) with the most comprehensive set of applications available anywhere.
Open WiFi Spots
A comprehensive directory of free wireless (WiFi) hotspots across the U.S., continuously updated by your peers and searchable by city, state and zip code.
This suite of portable apps are a great set of productivity applications that can all run directly from a USB drive. These allow a ‘Digital Nomad’ to take all the essential tools with them and work from any computer that has a USB port.
This site has lists of all sorts of things but one that is invaluable to the digital nomad is its listing of “Top Free Hosts to Store Your Files Online”.


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