Avoiding H1N1 Trouble: Facility Managers Can Support Enterprise Telecommuting Strategies
Most facility executives know that telecommuting saves money. The idea is simple: Less space means less overhead.
St. Louis County, Minn., became the latest to recognize the trend by announcing the extension of a telecommuting pilot program in September to close a budget deficit.
But cost reduction isn’t the only reason to consider telecommuting. It’s also a tool to use when crafting a pandemic business continuity plan. The key is understanding that a telecommuting option can’t be improvised on the spur of the moment.
Chuck Wilsker, president and CEO of the Telework Coalition says that, during the 2005 New York City transit strike, he received calls from businesses asking if they could use telecommuting because employees couldn’t get to work.
If the companies didn’t have a telecommuting plan in place already the answer was simple: no.
“You can’t just send people home to work,” Wilsker says.
Even if the current flu season has hit before a company has implemented a telecommuting plan, there’s no time like the present to start preparing for the next crisis. Enterprise-wide collaboration is required for telecommuting to be successful.
“In order to be ready for telecommuting, you need to have serious alternative workplace strategies in place,” says Subodh Kumar, president of the Chartered Facility Management Group. “It takes quite a bit of evaluation and consideration. It’s a multi-disciplinary piece of work.”
In general terms, the deployment of telecommuting is driven by IT and HR concerns. On the technology side, workers need access to the Internet, the corporate network and phone system. Companies need a way to authenticate remote users. HR policies need to define what it means to work from home, insurance coverage and where liability lies.
The role of FM is a less direct one. From its unique position within enterprises, FM has the opportunity to be the leader in tackling telecommuting strategies, says Marc Liciardello, IFMA board member and Aramark vice president, corporate services.
“Because FM touches the whole workplace, it can provide the thought leadership to work with the IT and HR departments to ensure the larger goals of the enterprise will be met and ensure a safe, productive and sustainable workplace,” he says.
Depending on the organization, FM might also provide a specific furniture kit or do an ergonomic assessment of the home workspace.
— Naomi Millán