Enabling IT to telecommute also can align with organizations' efforts to provide always-available tech support. "For most organizations, the typical IT workweek is outdated and employees log in from home nights and weekends. It's now a foregone conclusion that the technology is there to support that," Ripaldi says. Yet, surprisingly, he finds, most companies still consider telecommuting to be an earned benefit that requires trust to be built between the manager and the employee.
Not a tech problem
What's interesting to many industry observers is that often the choice to have IT come into the office has little to do with remote capabilities and more to do with culture.
At Philips Electronics, a manufacturer of healthcare equipment, IT workday flexibility has been around for almost a decade. Maridan Harris, vice president of IT, credits the deployment of remote monitoring, management and troubleshooting tools to support field service technicians. "We didn't want to force service people to come into an office when their PCs broke so we implemented software necessary to help them," Harris says.
In addition to diagnostics tools that let the help desk drive the PCs remotely, IT uses unified communications tools such as Microsoft Lync to videoconference and share documents. "Does this help IT work fully off-site? A lot of them can," she says.
Yet even Harris, who initially talked about a 100% flexibility policy, conceded that some IT members have to be close to the business units they serve. "If you're supporting the factory floor, then obviously you can't work from home. If something breaks, you need to be here," she says. Also, she points to IT staff working on requirements with business units, which usually needs to happen face-to-face.
Nonetheless, Harris believes that telecommuting is an important investment that companies should endorse to attract more qualified candidates. "I want to be able to hire the best people for key positions even if they aren't located near a core office," she says.
Best vs. nearest
One company that's all-in on telecommuting is Oil States International, a manufacturer and service provider for the oil and gas industry. An acquisition-based company, Oil States has had to absorb and assimilate numerous geographically dispersed IT organizations. To keep highly skilled talent onboard, the company has learned how to work with full-time telecommuters like Robb Harper, who says he finds companies that cling to an in-office IT culture severely at a disadvantage.