Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hoteling - Or, Convincing your Workplace

If you or a group of people at your workplace are trying to get increased telecommuting priveleges, here's a tip: make it all about the benefits to your employer. And we all know, nothing talks like money. One way to save your employer some money, and help persuade them to see it your way, is the hoteling technique.

My former employer was a consulting firm. Since they had people in and out of the office, usually at client's offices or telecommuting, they used a money-saving technique called "hoteling".

How it worked: Only senior managers or partners had their own, reserved office. Everyone else had temporary cubicles when they were in the office and reserved storage drawers (for the inevitable paperwork). Consultants or senior consultant who wanted to work in the office would reserve a seat at the office using special hoteling software, for however many days. Or, we could schedule a recurring spot - like every Thursday. If we forgot to reserve a cubicle or office ahead of time, we got one at a kiosk when we walked in that morning. After we arrived, we would plug in our laptops at our temporary desk, and the hoteling software program automatically routed all our calls to the phone at the reserved seat.

Using hoteling, my employer was able to radically reduce the size of the office space that they rented. Of course, this meant a huge cost-savings, in rental, maintenance, and utility costs. We underlings liked it too because it meant that we could work from home when we wanted or needed to.

The tradeoff: everyone had their own laptop, which had to be carried home every night (we were allowed to use them for personal reasons at home). Although, if you are only going to be working from home this may not be strictly necessary. But having standardized laptops and software did make computer trouble-shooting a lot easier for the help desk. And of course, our cubes at work were blank anonymous grey wastelands, but what the heck. Carry a few pictures with you and tack them up.

One study by the IRS found that 100 hoteling participants saved the employer $414,000. Additionally, 88% had lower stress, 59% were more motivated, and 100% of managers were satisfied or highly satisfied with the arrangement.

This arrangement does require a critical mass of people who will be telecommuting or otherwise out of the office for most of the time - but if that's the situation, or if your co-workers would like that situation, than hoteling may be a good option for your employer.

Other times to suggest hoteling + telecommuting include office expansions (no longer necessary), cost-cutting projects (better than layoffs!), new computer rollouts (your employer could buy laptops instead, for telecommuters, or may not need to buy new ones at all, if telecommuters have their own computers) or "greening" projects when your employer is looking to actually get more environmental. Be a hero and suggest the hoteling + telecommuting combo - less commuting, less gas wasted, less carbon footprint, and money saved!

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