What Will You Do if Gas Rises to $6 Per Gallon

The world is changing at light speed. Those changes are swirling around us and will impact  both our work and private lives. In fact many of those changes, driven by technology, the desires of emerging demographics and market forces, constitute the merging of our work and private lives in the guise of work at home .

As long as it’s done correctly, the technology has become the easiest aspect of work at home. The emergence of Citrix and VM Ware solutions, advanced soft phone and hosted voice solutions, and the ability to extend the LAN to the home via Ethernet have all vastly improved organizations abilities.

The desires, wants and needs of the different demographics (baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y) are all well documented. Baby Boomers are attempting to extend their work life and work at home is an avenue their choosing to do so. Gen X and Gen Y have vastly different work expectations from the Baby Boom generation. The need for more autonomy, the desired to have better device choices and their newer vision of what work equates to a more mobile workforce and a greater desire to work at home.

It’s already a fact that 80% of all employees would like to work at home, at least part-time. It’s also true that many employees would accept lower pay to work at home. I write this tongue and cheek. There’s a difference between stating that on a survey and being faced with the reality of an actual pay decrease. We’ll address this a little later.

But it’s the employers that are deciding if they’ll launch a work at home program. For them the motivations for work at home have been saving in operational costs, recruiting the best talent and decreasing turnover. Currently most organizations are calling the shots on whether an employee will work at home or not. Today 93% of all large companies either have made or are making plans for work at home. But the actual successful launch of those programs gets delayed due to internal resistance and security concerns.

This is the part where uncontrollable market forces come in. All this may be about to be turned on its head. What will happen when or if gas prices exceed $5 per gallon and head towards $6. Although this eventuality is uncontrollable the employers that plan for this event now that will be more successful in the future. Understanding how employees understand what work is and preparing leaders to manage employees to success under this new work vision are vital components of this preparation.

According to an article I recently read on workshifting.com when you add the higher gas prices to the fact that the “world is getting flatter” or I would say smaller and you start experiencing a world in which the employee has more control. Talented individuals are now more accessible to more organizations and, due to gas prices, have an incentive to think about engaging with organizations that aren’t in their neighborhood, their city or their state. If those organizations will let them work at home, that is.

This same article  agrees that employers need to do is change how they think about work. What is work and how does it get done. This article had three recommendations:

1. Shift to “Outcome Thinking”- clearly define success for specific jobs, project etc… and use that definition to decide if work is being successfully completed.

2. Break work down into a series of “next actions” that lead to that defined success. Clearly know what steps need to be taken and have a way to measure those steps regardless of where the employer is sitting.

3.  Clearly define who owns the “next action”. Work usually is accomplished by a team or ensemble of folks. Each must clearly understand what actions they need to take in order to get to the success that’s been defines.

Bottom line, when what work is for each particular job is defined success can be measured. It’s only when that the definition for success isn’t clear that a manager needs to manage “by walking around”.

Another consideration is that 83% of all workers already spend some time working at home or away from the office. These arrangements are often made privately between the manager and employee even though there’s not work at home policy or plan in place. Increased gas prices will only drive this statistic higher. Companies will find that have a work at home program with out really intending to.

Organizations will also find that higher gas prices will shrink their hiring radius and artificially increase turnover if there is no work at home plan in place. Employees will begin to decide the cost of the commute out weighs the value of the job. This is where the employees willingness to take a pay cut comes into play. Even though employees aren’t necessarily open to accepting pay cuts from their current employer they may be open to taking lower pay when going to an employer that allows work at home.

Lastly, I’d like to leave you with this quote from an article written my Michael Haaren for Broadband of America. He wrote: “Imagine living in a pedestrian community where you could work from home or walk to an eWork center. The center could have daycare, a cafe, shops, and a gym. You could eat locally grown food (think light carbon footprint and actual nutrition), patronize local businesses, and read to your daughter’s second-grade class. Your employer could be down the block, across the nation, or over the sea. ”

Although employers may not have this vision, employees do. They’re already looking for the environment that Haaren offers up. Higher gas prices will only increase that desire and push employees to  continue the search.

Thank for reading this article. As always I hope you find some value in it and I look forward to your feedback.

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