Friday, December 4, 2009

What makes IBM's OTTO (Other Than Traditional Office) initiative tick

We learned about IBM's remote worker strategy last month when we interviewed Jayne Nanavaty-Dahl (right), Manager of Workforce Enablement Communications for IBM. The company calls its initiative OTTO, or Other Than Traditional Office, which Jayne started in 2007.

We touched upon many facets of OTTO in our podcast, but if you're interested in more on IBM's strategy, Jayne has supplied us with a couple articles with more details. The first one is below, where she explains IBM's imperative for having a remote worker practice. Next time around, we'll share her recommendations for how to implement such a strategy. So stay tuned!

Meet the IBM OTTO Worker

IBM's global work environment is changing to meet the needs of the new workforce. Everyone -- young and old, gen next to baby boomers -- are included. Flexibility matters. It makes it possible for today's employees to meet their mounting professional and personal commitments.

In order to attract and retain the most talented employees, companies like IBM offer flexible work options. More than 40 percent of IBM's global workforce works in non-traditional environments. These employees might work from a home office, a client site, or remotely.

IBM isn't alone. According to Thomas L. Friedman's book, "The World is Flat," 23.5 million -- 16 percent of the American labor force -- works from home at least part of the time. Since flexibility is now a requisite for the globally integrated enterprise, offering flexible work options just makes good business sense.

The benefits can be substantial, including enhanced productivity and employee retention, more effective use of time, environmental consciousness, and cost savings to both employee and company. IBM saves about $100 million in real-estate related expenses per year because of flexible work options.

For employees to reap these benefits, they have to be organized, passionate about their work, and good communicators. Evidence shows that the latter is the most important skill needed to be successful as an OTTO (Other Than Traditional Office) employee. Technology also plays a major role in connecting our virtual workforce so that even if employees are out of sight, they are not out of mind. More on this in my next article.

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