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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Work From Home Update

As of last week we have 136 people signed up to work partial weeks from home. These individuals work in three of our five divisions. In HR, we are building an email distribution list so we can send email blasts with tips and best practices, communicate directly to those in the test to see how its going, and start to build community around those involved in this innovation. One group we're watching closely is the Design group working in Production under Debbie Eicholtz, since they are Mac power-users and a key test of how the remoting software works with Macs.

In trying to stay ahead of the corporate test, HR is pushing ahead with two more phases of the project. About three weeks ago, with the wise counsel and support of our IT group, we installed video conferencing software and web cams for most of our staff. Since then, we've expanded our work-from-home schedule. At first we had three salaried staff members working three half-days each from home, making sure to have everyone in the office two days a week for staff meetings or other face-to-face events. Now all salaried staff are working from home two full days each week, and the majority of the hourly staff are working four 10-hour shifts. Staff meetings are now being done with at least two members joining via web cam from home, as the whole staff is never in the office on the same day anymore.

This week, again with the wisdom and support of our IT colleagues, we are planning the next and near-final phase of the test which is space sharing. By the end of this month we intend to have two staff members merge into one cubicle on alternating days. Neither has a laptop so the technical challenge will be how to share desktop computing resources with one person in the office and the other remoting in from home.

Most of this is going smoothly, but not all. The Mac users have had more technical difficulty than PC users, and one HR staff member can't get their home PC to work with the videoconferencing software and hardware. These are the types of bugs that we must work out of the system, as well as developing the policies and procedures and reflecting those in the Handbook, in order to roll this out to more people. This is taking time, but its such a profound change in work style that we need to get it right.

That's the latest. I welcome comments and questions as always.

4 comments:

Rick Ferrell said...

Jim,

This is a great thing you are doing with your staff at Thomas Nelson. I believe the work model you are working on will enhance moral while increasing productivity and profitability. Thanks for the update. I look forward to tracking your progress.

Susan K. Stewart said...

I have worked from home for a much smaller organization for years. Ten years ago it was much harder to stay connected with the office, and it meant making the 200 mile trip about once a month.

Now, with current technology, it is so much easier. We use web conferencing, but without web cams. I only go to the office once or twice a year. I don't feel left out of anything, and definitely am more productive because I can work during the time of day that I'm most productive.

Mike M said...

Will you or would you provide work from home as an incentive? Example: Sales personel must sustain certain call volume or sales numbers, etc to qualify for this perk.

Jim Thomason said...

Since this is in the testing phase anything is possible. Right now our eligibility focus, i.e. who may or may not work from home, has to do with whether or not the duties of the job can be done remotely at our current level of technology. Support positions that require attendance can't, and knowledge-worker positions whwere location is irrelevant can. Once a position is eligible, the performance standards are a requirement for continued off-site work. We haven't focused on incentives for participation because $4 gas and the need for better work/life balance have been incentive enough.