Blog Post

Telecommuting and the Untethered Employee

As part of a special report on Work/Life Balance, BusinessWeek ran a  “Telecommuting: Once a Perk, Now a Necessity,” an interesting story on how remote workers and telecommuting are now being seen as necessary developments for many organizations, rather than perks afforded to a privileged few amongst their workforce.

Driven by the need to reduce capital expenditure, many employers are encouraging workers to move to home offices. Here are a few interesting takeaways.

  • A healthcare provider is supplying free broadband and gratis office furniture, complete with a couple of delivery guys to set it all up.
  • the amount of money saved by working from home: $15 a day for lunch, $70 a week in gas and wear and tear on a vehicle.
  • To entice employees into telecommuting, Capital One is offering laptops and Blackberries, and the $1,000 managers can supply to workers to improve home offices.
  • At Capital One, office space will now be allotted by function, not title. Square footage will be based on office presence, not rank, with the new workplace will be less about working alone and more about working together.

There’s a bunch of phraseology strung throughout this article that I think is really pertinent to the web worker. Really what we’re talking about is the “post-geographic, untethered worker” — the web is simply an enabler for many disciplines and industries. I’m going to stop using “telecommuter” and go with “untethered” worker from now on!

There are some interesting inferences to be made from Gelb’s story and that of her employer – could coworking be seen as a potential “halfway house” for employees? Could smart employers provide coworking credits to their newly untethered workers, or perhaps stimulate the development of sponsored coworking spaces that benefit workers who might live in proximity?

7 Responses to “Telecommuting and the Untethered Employee”

  1. My husband used to work for Capital One, and he was part of the “Workplace of the Future” initiative with a laptop, Blackberry and a file drawer at work. While we appreciated the options it gave us for our family life (I work part-time, and we have three school-age children), we joked that “Workplace of the Future: We don’t care WHERE you work your 80 hours, as long as you DO work 80 hours…” It also made it a little easier when he did leave – pack up your drawer in a lawyer’s box, turn in your electronics and you’re off…

  2. Imran Ali

    @Jon – we also covered the OfficePOD a few days ago ( – personally, I don’t think it’s a great model or an interesting design. What’s more interesting is the need that’s driving these developments.

    @thisismyurl I don’t believe its just about real estate costs. People are demanding more flexible and equitable ways of working and increased control over their lifestyles too. Employers that can’t accomodate that will struggle to recruit the best people.

  3. Hi Imran,

    Very interesting indeed. This has been on my mind a lot this week, prompted mainly by:

    Rather cool eh? And the fact they are renting these and not selling them, plus focusing squarely on employer benefits is testament to what you say.

    I still think MOST businesses here in the UK don’t quite understand all the benefits. Does not surprise me.

  4. I’m located in Canada and it’s funny to talk to my cousins in the UK or friends in the US to see the difference in attitudes about telecommuting.

    Here, it’s rare to find a company interested in working with remotely located employees while in the UK it seems companies (with high real estate costs) are doing everything possible to have staff work from home.