Exchange Your Office and Travel Budgets for Work at Home and Conferencing Solutions

Jan 08, 2015

‘Tis the season of many “happy” returns, of gifts that turn out to be less desirable, useful, and, or flawed.  These gifts are then exchanged for more desirable items or for cold hard cash.

It’s also the season of new calendar year budgets which contain items that fall into the same category; two of the biggest are offices and travel. Companies should exchange them for solutions that enable work at home and virtual conference meetings.  They should also downsize into smaller, greener, transit-accessible, and higher quality office space. In addition, they should limit their travel to where face-to-face interactions are truly beneficial for the right employees.

Here’s why: Most information-based jobs can be performed equally, if not more effectively remotely, and at far less cost, than in company-subsidized offices.  I scratch my head when I hear and read about executives who insist that their staff work in offices because they believe they work more productively face to face, yet they require them to communicate virtually with colleagues and clients in other offices, who are either mobile or at home.

These C-suiters should get with the program: We are in “The Virtual Age”. Look at your next generations of employees who live on their smartphones.

Offices are costly infrastructure or “overhead” that detracts from profits.  Requiring employees to work in them diminishes productivity by forcing them to waste time on commutes, and confining labor pools to only those workers who are in commuting distance.  It also places staff at greater risk to injury, illness, and death from accidents and crime while in transit, to catching and spreading dangerous communicable diseases at workplaces, and in disasters. All of these consequences also come at higher cost for companies in both healthcare bills and in disaster recovery. On top of that there are the other nasty (and costly) side effects of office work, like information theft, bullying, sexual harassment, and workplace violence.

Like office work, most business travel is also no longer needed.  Our economy has become based on software and is virtualized with Web and video. We can see more products and installations, take tours, and interact more effectively with others without being there in person.  We can multitask, read and answer emails, social posts, and key in information, thereby improving our productivity, without being rude.

Business relationships now take place globally through our smartphones; we may never meet these people in-person in our entire careers. It also no longer makes sense to travel to meetings, for especially lower-echelon staff, when the same information and personal connectivity can be imparted in audio-, video-, or Web conferences.  The best meetings, where travel is justified, are those that are highly interactive with decision-maker level attendees and where you get to know others over a period of a few days, like Frost & Sullivan’s MindXchanges and Best Practices awards events.

Business travel, like offices, also cost companies and employees dearly, in higher expenses, loss of productivity, increased risk of injury and death, and in physical discomfort, pain, and aggravation for those who have to take those journeys in airlines’ economy seats.  On that note The New Yorker published the day after Xmas (also known as Boxing Day) a great article, “Why Airlines Want to Make You Suffer” that points out how airlines’ boarding practices lengthen and worsen the ordeals.

The “gifts” of offices, office commuting, and business travel are not just corporate matters: they also cause serious environmental harm.  Air, car, and to a lesser extent rail, bus, and ferry travel, pump toxins and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere while in motion, in building and maintaining the attendant infrastructure, and in extracting, generating, transporting, and storing their energy sources.  Offices and their parking spaces, and transportation systems remove life-enabling greenspace from the ecosystem.

What better exchange can there be of items that hurt companies, staff, and indeed all of us, for those that help them, and the planet? Isn’t that in keeping with the true holiday spirit?

Brendan Read


Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.

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