Technology Advice You Can Trust

Hi, I'm Dave Hyndman. I am a senior IT consultant providing CIO-level advice to small & medium businesses, non-profits and government departments and agencies.​

Hey, I'm featured in the Globe and Mail

Yesterday's Globe and Mail included a story on teleworking, featuring yours truly. Nice bit of press for me and for T4G, but also a nice angle for PEI.

Update: The original story's gone behind the paywall. As I'm the subject of the story, I'll take the pesonal liberty of presenting it in full here:

Teleworking helps attract far-flung staff

After nearly 20 years of working outside Canada, Dave Hyndman wanted to return to his native Prince Edward Island. Yet after holding overseas positions with Federal Express Corp. and most recently working for a San Francisco dot-com company, Mr. Hyndman was also keen to keep working for an innovative technology firm. When he and his wife decided a move to Charlottetown was their first priority, Mr. Hyndman knew he was closing the door on some opportunities in the Toronto area.

Some, but not all. Among the companies Mr. Hyndman had talked to was T4G Ltd. When Geoff Flood, president of T4G, offered him the option of working for the Toronto-based technology services company from his new home in Charlottetown, it was exactly what Mr. Hyndman wanted.

Mr. Hyndman likes his job as director of tourism solutions for T4G, and “I live in this wonderful small community with all the benefits that affords,” he says. “Probably for one of the few times in my career I'm just not at all interested in looking for other opportunities.”

Mr. Flood says telework helps T4G attract and keep people like Mr. Hyndman. “Dave is a very high-performing individual in a position that doesn't require him to be in any particular location,” he says. The same is true for other T4G employees, including one who recently moved from Toronto to Calgary to be with his girlfriend while continuing in the same job.

Had T4G not been open to telework, the company would never have recruited Mr. Hyndman, and probably would have lost employees like the man with the Calgary romance. “We have recruited people and kept people because we do recognize that everyone has different needs,” Mr. Flood says.

There are any number of arguments for telework, from saving money on office space to saving the environment. For a significant number of companies, though, one important reason for letting employees work from home is that it helps attract and retain the skilled people they want.

“It's very important for a lot of employees to have access” to telework, says Jean-Marc Ciot, a senior consultant in telework at Bell Canada in Montreal. About 3,000 of Bell's 45,000 employees work from home full time, Mr. Ciot says, and another 9,000 do so some of the time.

At IBM Canada Ltd. of Markham, Ont., four-fifths of employees have the option of teleworking some of the time, and about a quarter are official teleworkers who spend 80 per cent or more of their working hours outside the office, says Susan Turner, director of diversity and workplace programs. Ms. Turner says telework is just one of a range of options helping make IBM an attractive employer, but “if we didn't offer this package, it would be a disadvantage.”

“There's a huge supply of people who want this option,” says Bob Fortier, president of the Canadian Telework Association in Ottawa. Telework can help many kinds of companies attract skilled people and keep them happy, Mr. Fortier says, but it is a particularly useful tool for employers facing skills shortages and aging work forces.

Last August, TrueCareers, a unit of the U.S. education loan provider, SLM Corp., (better known as Sallie Mae), surveyed more than 200 workers and reported that 84 per cent said the ability to work from home either full or part time would be important to them in choosing a job.

Not all teleworkers live and work as far from their employers as Mr. Hyndman does, and the majority don't spend all their working hours at home. Mr. Fortier says the average teleworker works at home two days a week and spends the rest of his or her working hours at the office. And many teleworkers live just a few kilometres from their offices, but in many cases it's a long commute in heavy rush-hour traffic.

There are many reasons telework appeals to some employees. For Mr. Hyndman, it means not only being able to live in the Maritimes instead of Toronto, but also having more time with his wife — who works part time — and two preschool children. For others, Mr. Fortier says, it means avoiding a tiresome commute. And the freedom to work at home from time to time can make it easier to deal with sick children or elderly parents, home repairs, deliveries and bad weather.

Of course, for some people telework can mean a home office impinging on personal space, being interrupted by children or feeling isolated — working at home is not for everyone, so telework programs designed to attract and retain employees generally should be voluntary.

Mandatory telework may work, Mr. Fortier says, but it works best in startup companies that make a point of hiring employees and managers who like the idea.

An example is SuiteWorks, slated to open in Barrie, Ont., in September to serve Toronto employers whose staff want to avoid long commutes from north of the city. George Horhota, executive vice-president of SuiteWorks, says his company is marketing its services to employees, who then sell the idea to their employers.

Part of SuiteWorks' strategy, he says, is that employees agree to give some of the commuting time they save to their employers as extra working hours. SuiteWorks also asks employees if they would be willing to share some of their savings on travel expenses with their employers to help pay for space in the telework centre. Most employees are willing, he says, although so far no employer has chosen to take the money. “Without exception,” Mr. Horhota concludes, “employees are willing to actually pay to work closer to home.”