Business Monday

What’s your take on telecommuting to the office?

Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

This week’s question: What’s your take on telecommuting to the office? Do you allow your employees to do it regularly? Or are special circumstances required? Why or why not?

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Telecommuting does benefit most businesses as a tool for cutting costs and increasing employee morale. Think for a moment about Miami traffic and the huge impact telecommuting has when time spent driving to work is reallocated to production hours. Stress is relieved, emissions are reduced, risk of automobile accident and injury are eliminated, time spent at home with family is increased and the bottom line becomes healthier. OrthoNow is a national franchise, so for us virtual meetings are a necessity. We also take advantage of technology for the well-being of our patients with our unique smartphone app which allows clinicians to communicate with each other, so each patient walking into a center has the potential expertise of either a foot, spine or hand specialist literally in the palm of the clinician’s hand.

Alejandro Badia, orthopedic surgeon and founder, OrthoNOW

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It’s obvious that the work styles of millennials and other younger workers today are dramatically different from the baby boomer generation. Many like to work remotely, and that could mean working from home or the nearest coffee shop. Millennials will often tell you that the freedom to work outside of the office enhances their productivity. As a corporate executive, the challenge is finding a way to maximize employee productivity without losing out on the important benefits of mentoring, training, teamwork and client service that require physical presence. At my firm, these are issues we are currently debating and considering testing a limited pilot program for telecommuting.

Hilarie Bass, co-president, Greenberg Traurig

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In some industries, telecommuting makes perfect sense for the individual, for the business, and is often the most environmentally green solution. In the hotel business we are in the service industry so telecommuting does not really apply in our situation. I would think that even in other businesses that are less people centric, it’s good to have periodic face time; to really check in and keep channels of communication open.

Peggy Benua, general manager, Dream South Beach

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I am not opposed to telecommuting, and Barry University does have a telecommuting policy in place. Telecommuting has to be accepted in light of the specific job requirement and impact it will have on productivity and the business as a whole. It’s also important that the employee maintain the same quantity and quality of work while telecommuting. Our institution does it on a job-by-job basis.

Sister Linda Bevilacqua, president, Barry University

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As a former working mom, I truly appreciated geographic flexibility in the workplace. I think there are a number of businesses that are conducive to this flexibility, and it gives them an advantage when seeking employees. On the other hand, some businesses simply have to have people in the workplace like a storefront or restaurant, so telecommuting won’t work. Also, sometimes that water cooler talk can be productive and revealing!

Meg Daly, president and CEO, Friends of The Underline

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Telecommuting to the office is great, for some employees — not so great for others. I allow certain employees to do it, under special circumstances. And the circumstances have to be one that they have no control over.

T. Willard Fair, president and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami

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Telecommuting may be appropriate for some jobs but not for all. If your business relies on team interaction, being available for direct customer contact, management and security of private information, then being in the office is essential. Most job descriptions clearly spell out work requirements and individuals should inquire if working from home is an option before accepting a position if that is a priority for them. In the wealth management field, our employees are either in the office or with clients; we work with confidential information that needs to be safeguarded and we have a high touch service model.

Vicky Garrigo, market head, U.S. Southeastern Region Private Banking, HSBC Bank

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We’ve had a few employees work from home, but being a retailer, it’s extremely important for almost everyone who works at Books & Books to spend a majority of time in one of the stores. There is clearly more flexibility for our back office employees; in the age of computers much of what they do can be achieved through telecommuting. Even so, for a team to be really successful, in person communication is extremely important and is something I encourage.

Mitch Kaplan, founder, Books & Books

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The entire business world is acutely aware that we live and operate in a highly connected world, which enables our employees and clients to work in any place, anywhere. As the standard 8-hour work day morphs for many of us into a longer workday cycle, we need to remember that employees require flexibility to get their work done and service the needs of clients. However, it also depends on the roles and responsibilities of each individual in the organization. There are some roles that require employees to be in the office the standard work time. While technology has facilitated more flexibility in the workplace, creating a culture where innovation exists requires fostering an environment where employees work and interact together. In recent years, we have seen more businesses redesign their workspaces to cultivate that collaboration.

Alan Kleber, managing director, JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle)

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In our business, most of our employees are customer-facing, so we have never developed a telecommuting policy. In addition, our back office personnel have to comply with the many regulatory requirements involved with buying and selling cars, so we still have to move a lot of paper. We do encourage our employees to use technology, and I would consider telecommuting on a case-by-case basis. I know many business owners like to see their employees in their work spaces, and it gives them peace of mind knowing that their workers are on site and visible.

Mario Murgado, president and CEO, Brickell Motors

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Telecommuting is not a theme regularly present in the restaurant or hospitality industry. My business requires direct contact and physical presence to run the operation. One of the most rewarding elements of the service sector is the ability to connect and build relationships with staff and guests each day.

Steve Perricone, president and owner, Perricone’s Restaurant

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Generally, it is best to have the team working together on a regular basis. This basic premise has many exceptions, and decisions should be made based on specific details. One of the key people in our company moved to N.Y. We found a way to continue working with her as a full-time member of our team. She is great, and our business is not impaired. With cellular phones and computers, this is not difficult. I travel extensively, which means that I am often telecommuting to the office.

Craig Robins, president and CEO, Dacra

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I am a strong believer in the power of face-to-face connections when building relationships with your colleagues and partners. Telecommuting leads to social and business atrophy. While you are reading this during your commute, you may think otherwise, but trust me…

David Samson, president, Miami Marlins

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I am supportive of telecommuting when and where it makes sense; in fact, in some cases it enables employees to perform their jobs better. Many FPL employees work directly with customers and stakeholders throughout the communities we serve, and having the flexibility to work from different locations allows them to be more responsive to our customers’ needs.

Eric Silagy, president and CEO, Florida Power & Light

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I am a big fan of telecommuting, even though I recognize that it does not work well for everyone. For me, telecommuting is efficient and gives me the freedom to make my own life work on my schedule. It similarly allows my co-workers to fit our organization’s mission into their personal lives (e.g., childcare, fitness, working during their most alert hours, healthcare, family, etc.). Of course, we must always balance this focus on independence with opportunities for collaboration and communication. But, with the increased reliance on email, Skype, Dropbox, and Google docs, I increasingly find that my co-workers and I can fully collaborate and stay connected even as we work from home. I try to group meetings together on the same day so that I can allow myself some longer, uninterrupted periods for deeper work. I know that others find themselves drawn to household chores, like cleaning the dishes or doing the laundry, when they work from home, but, to the dismay of my husband, I feel no such compunction!

Rachel Silverstein, executive director, Miami Waterkeeper

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