Sun Sheds Light on Telework Savings

Changing Appeal

In addition to benefiting the environment, employees benefit from reduced travel. The average employee can save more than $1,700 per year in gasoline and vehicle wear and tear by working at home 2.5 days a week.

Metrics like these are helping drive greater interest in the Open Work program, McGee says. While the program has always been well received by employees, lately the primary attractors are shifting.

"There's a lot of support for the program from employees because of the flexibility that it offers, the work-life balance  benefits that it provides. That has been the big attractor from an employee perspective over the long term. Now, it's the cost of gas that is coming to the fore," McGee says. "Employees are becoming more assertive about asking to work from home, or work flexibly, if they haven't already."

On the IT front, Sun depends on a few key technologies to keep its mobile staff working smoothly. A cornerstone of the program is Sun's own Sun Ray thin clients, for example, which have been deployed in most offices on Sun's campuses.

Employees can reserve an office at any Sun location when they want to work on-site. This concept of "hoteling" is managed via a central reservation system. Employees can reserve an office when they need one, and they simply log on to the resident Sun Ray machine to gain access to the applications and files they need, McGee says.

For mobile users who work primarily outside of Sun offices, "laptops are provisioned with what we call our Open Work stack," McGee says. "It provides them their e-mail, calendar, browser, VPN, file-synching capabilities. It's all centrally managed on the back end by the Sun Ray servers."

The company is saving about $24 million each year by using the thin-client technology because it is simpler to administer and the devices are more energy efficient than traditional PCs, McGee says.

The real payback for Sun, however, is in real estate: Over the last six years the company has saved roughly $387 million in reduced office space and utility costs, because so many employees are working from flexible locations.

"We just don't need as much real estate because we don't have assigned offices that are sitting empty when people are working from home or in another Sun location," McGee says.

For companies that might be considering increasing their telework ranks, McGee stresses the importance of training. "It can be a big change for managers. If your experience has been managing by 'line of sight,' where you see your employees come in every day, and you know they're there, it's a big switch to manage remotely. It requires a different set of skills, and companies need to make sure their managers are prepared for that and can develop the skills that they need to manage remotely," she says.

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