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Marc Hershon

Marc Hershon

Posted: July 7, 2009 05:59 PM

Backup For The Productive Nomad


Telecommuting. Working offsite. Between offices. No matter what your company calls it, the important thing is that you can be more productive not always having to be downbutt in your chair at the office.

In our book, I Hate People!, Jonathan Littman and I devote an entire chapter -- Dig My Cave -- to the importance of creating a space you can claim as your own. Whether your Cave is tucked away in a corner of your garage or a favorite table at your neighborhood café, the important thing is that it is far from the interruptive atmosphere of the office (or the hustle and bustle at home.)

We tackle the issue of wandering workers or "Nomadic Work" as coined by some researchers at the Department of Informatics at UC Irvine. We talked with Soloists who have discovered the joys of stepping outside the bounds of the corporate workspace for minutes or hours in order to be more productive. A number of companies both large and small have figured out that being able to work out of the office doesn't just boost productivity. It's an added attraction for the modern employee who thinks better on his feet, and on the go.

Yes, there are plenty of Spreadsheet decision makers at companies that don't quite get our concept. Some of that opposition is that "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. The idea that if someone isn't where you can see them, then they can't possibly be getting their work done. The slap in the face of that old-style model is that -- with e-mail, computer games, TV shows, sports and movies delivered via the Internet -- those "dedicated" employees hunched over their PCs at the cube farm are often only presenting the picture of the hard-working drone.

Accountability is where you find it and now, thanks to a hefty "Teleworker Survey" conducted by Cisco Systems, Inc., the networking giant, maybe more companies will start catching a clue that it pays to play with the idea of letting workers stray from their desks. Cisco's study was an in-depth look at almost 2,000 employees, geared to evaluate the social, economic and environmental impacts that come with being a teleworker at Cisco, whose main office is in San Jose, California.

Every company is different, of course, but the numbers show that allowing your Soloists to snip the office umbilical cord even once in a while creates impressive results. Ballpark? According to Cisco's Internet Business Services Group, the company's global strategic consulting arm, the firm has generated an estimated savings of $277 million a year in productivity by letting their minions go nomad.

Crunching numbers from their study, Cisco points out that more that half of their "next-generation workforce" communicate and collaborate at a distance from Cisco HQ. Astonishingly, 40% of those surveyed said they don't even work in the same city as their manager. The average Cisco-er logs two full days a week away from the cube.

Here's where the old school brick-and-mortar boys start to freak out. The teleworkers said that 60 percent of their days away were spent on work and 40 percent on personal time. Doesn't much sound like work dedication? Try the 69 percent of nomads who cited higher productivity. An even higher 75 percent reported greater timeliness of their work, while a nearly equal percentage reported an increase in overall work quality.

Companies have already discovered they get more fans when they can preen about how they're going green. By supporting the nomads and letting them not travel to the office, Cisco estimates over 47 thousand metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions were not emitted into the atmosphere. Workers saved $10.3 million in fuel per year by ditching that commute to the office.

Critics might counter that this is some bean counter's trick. To con people into teleworking only to find that it's the equivalent of a corporate chain gang: Enjoying the open air while chained to a pack of losers. It doesn't appear to be the case. A full 80% of the survey's respondents said their quality of life improved as they were able to be more in control of when and where they got their work done.

Now that Digging Your Cave has even more backup from a corporate giant, what are you going to do about cutting yourself loose from the "gotta be there" tether to work?


Marc Hershon is the co-author of the new book I HATE PEOPLE (Little, Brown and Company; June 2009) with Jonathan Littman. Marc is a branding expert who, through his Simmer Branding Studio, has created such memorable names as nüvi, Crackle.com and the title for Dr. Phil's book "Love Smart".

Follow Marc Hershon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IHatePeople_