What Startups Can Learn From Dell’s Telecommuting Initiative

With all of the technologies available to us these days, is commuting to work an outdated practice? As CNNMoney reports Texas-based computer manufacturer Dell seems to think so and has encouraged a number of its employees to work from home. In fact a quarter of the companies staff already telecommutes either part or full time and Dell is looking to double that figure within the next four years.

As the company explains there are several benefits to their plan including savings for both the business and its employees. Estimates suggest that the typical Dell employee saves over $350 a year in commuting costs just from working offsite 10 days a month. More impressively the company is said to be saving around $12 million per year thanks to reduced need for office space. Lastly the company has also touted the positive environmental impact their initiative has had, including a reduced carbon footprint.

While Dell is on their way to having 50% of their staff work from offsite, the national average of employees that work from home is still a mere 2.8%. So why aren’t more companies following Dell’s lead? It seems that startups in particular could greatly benefit from such a plan.

As Dell’s global director of HR services Mohammed Chahdi explains, the company only requires employees to work onsite if they’re job demands it (e.g. those who manufacturer Dell’s products). Meanwhile other employees can decide for themselves whether or not to telecommute and their decision will not count for or against them in either case. As Chahdi said, “We’re pushing a culture where it just doesn’t matter. Your location simply doesn’t matter anymore.”

In order to facilitate these options and truly allow employees to work from wherever is best for them, the company has redesigned many of their workspaces. This includes creating communal work areas as opposed to having set offices or cubicles, since employees may only be on site for one or two days a week. Additionally the company has some desks set aside that employees can reserve when needed — not unlike study rooms at a public library.

In terms of productivity Chahdi says it hasn’t been hurt at all. If anything he says it’s actually increased slightly but not to any statistically significant degree. He adds that the one of the biggest goals behind the move was to create a better environment for employees, which in turn, helps the company to succeed.

Overall this is a notable case for startups that are looking to both save money and attract great talent. Allowing your team to work on their own schedule and save time by not needing to commute can not only alleviate stress in their lives but also allow them to focus more on what they need to accomplish. Additionally Dell’s clever plan of using communal areas and “hoteling” private workspaces is a good example of how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s when it comes to the logistics of offering a work-from-home program.

This is just one of many creative plans that startups can use to help grow a strong work culture while running on a tight budget. Although hardly a startup anymore, Dell seems to be thinking like one in this case and is headed in an interesting direction. Perhaps in the coming years that tiny 2.8% of employees that work from home will grow far bigger with the help of small businesses and startups looking to change things up.

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Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded DyerNews.com in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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