Car talk: Less driving is working


Jillian Ferrante works from her ‘office’ at Waterbean Coffee in Cornelius

By Dave Friedman. Worsening commute times, the high cost of brick and mortar and changing workplace demographics mean working from home is more and more commonplace in the Golden Crescent.

Karen Shore has had a home office for years. The regional resource development director for the Salvation Army of the Carolinas frequently conducts business from her Mooresville home.

“I recognize the amount of time wasted on I-77 if I had to go to the office every day,” said Shore. “For this line of work one of the main measures is being independent and accountable without guidance and supervision.”



Kathleen Rose, founder of Davidson based Rose Associates, says that there are typically three types of work-from-home employees: Corporate telecommuters, accidental entrepreneurs who have created a job for themselves and intentional entrepreneurs who start a business in the garage and then move to the house.

“The advantages are cost and convenience,” said Rose, a consultant to real estate and economic development teams. “The negatives are there is no sense of community. There is nobody to bounce ideas off of.”

The accidental entrepreneurs are helping to sprout a new business. While technology companies have been transitioning from typical layouts that include a lobby and private offices, the Googles and Yahoos of the world have promoted the open office concept. Rose says millennials like the idea of working around their peers so much—even when they are permitted to work from home—they seek an environment that includes others.

“First we saw people working from Starbucks, and then it was Regus executive offices,” said Rose. “Now co-working space is in. It provides a sense of community and a place to share ideas. It is a new concept that is burgeoning. Like breweries are cool, so is this. Everybody sits together. Millennials are more social. They like fewer walls, anecdotal and physically.”

Flexible, off-site working environments are next of kin to the home office. Regus, an international company that provides global workplaces, added 341 new locations during the first nine months of 2015. One of the most recent is 11,000 square feet in the Griffin Building on West Catawba Avenue in Cornelius.



Mike Griffin, an owner of the building, says Regus is ahead of plan, in terms of new clients. Regus, based in London, reports revenue is up 15 percent and the “pipeline of new openings remains strong.” Meanwhile, stock analyst Peel Hunt has issued a “buy” order on Regus.

Indeed coworking spaces are popping up throughout the area. A concept that was started in San Francisco a decade ago, where people working on different projects for different companies share tables to perform their tasks, is growing in popularity. Imagine four people at a table all plugged into their laptops working on unrelated tasks but forming a unique community.

Large local companies not surprisingly take work-from-home on a case-by-case basis. Wells Fargo spokesman Josh Dunn says that managers make the ultimate decision.

“We have 23,000 team members in the Charlotte area with more than 90 lines of business,” said Dunn. “There are no blanket policies. It is at a manager’s discretion. Where it makes sense, is viable, and there are clear advantages, we’re fully in favor of telecommuting.”

In more than four years working at Bank of America, spokeswoman Ferris Morrison has seen no major philosophical change in how the company prioritizes where their employees work from.

“The majority of our employees have flexible work options,” said Morrison. “There’s no trend. It depends on each person’s individual job. There is no urging one way or another on where they work. It is totally based on the person’s role and need based on that.”

Todd Swartz, who teaches in Central Piedmont Community College’s Human Resource Certificate program, says work-from-home is popular because, at its best, everybody benefits.

“Between 2013 and 2014 there was a 25-percent increase in job postings with work-from-home options,” said Swartz. “Employees get to set up their own schedule, avoid the commute, and there is less stress. For employers there is less real estate cost, less office space needed, fewer desks and furniture, higher productivity, less turnover, and a larger talent pool to hire from.”

On the flip side, Swartz recognizes reasons that some companies are reluctant to let employees work at the same address as they eat their Wheaties and wash their socks. Then, too, glitches like slow internet, noisy pets and costly or confusing deals from the likes of AT&T don’t help.

“There are three drawbacks,” said Swartz. “First, trust issues. How do you monitor work when the employee is never in the office? Second, some individuals working from home makes sense and others do not. It can be toxic in an organization where one person loses morale because they feel like they’re being treated differently. Finally, it is harder to monitor hours and with everything going on surrounding the Fair Labor Standards Act, non-exempt employees can file claims if they are being asked to respond to email 24/7.”

Most people and businesses agree that essentials like internet, and phone service work frequently enough that work-from-home is feasible. Back-up options like mobile hot-spots, land lines, or even a short trip to a coffee house or fast food restaurant with wifi suffice when called upon.

Shore, who does her job for the Salvation Army outside of the corporate office most of the time, believes that those who work from home because they hate wasting time on the road can also be prone to overdoing it.

“It tends to be the workaholics who love this. You can duck into the home office at 5 or 6 a.m., or come back for an hour or two at 9 or 10 p.m. Companies definitely have to look for folks that take care of their work and themselves if they work from home.”


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