Sun Microsystems Inc. is a technology firm with 35,000 employees, located in 55 countries.
Telework Program and Objectives
Sun Microsystems began their “open work” telework program with an incremental approach. They began with small pilots in two offices before deploying the program in other countries. Over their ten-year initiative, they were motivated by the company’s growth. By studying employee work patterns, Sun Microsystems realized that most employees were not using the building infrastructure
Their program has become integrated into their corporate culture. Ian Gover, who set up the “open work” program at Sun Microsystems notes that telework is enabled by “technology, a network of places (building of drop-in centres, for example) and organizational and operational infrastructure (which addresses the soft human resources issues, such as manager capability and readiness and team collaboration).” Training, tools and support are available.
Everyone participates in the “open work” program as work categories are as follows: assigned 44% (stationed at office), flexible 48-49% (hotelling and work from elsewhere one to two days/week, limited company provisioning for home), home assigned 8% (primarily work from home, provisioning for home office, hotelling at work as needed).
Sun Microsystems program has developed since the pilot as the reflected by the growth in flexible “open work” employees – 20,000 employees in 2006 since 1996.
The benefits and savings derived from the program are substantial from various perspectives:
Employee perspective: Employee satisfaction, retention and performance is high and can be attributed to telework. The “open work” program is the number 1 reason employees recommend working at Sun Microsystems; and it is the reason for ‘boomerang’ executives who return. The reduced commuting time per teleworker per year (160 hours, equivalent to four work weeks) has had a number of side benefits: It translates into an increase in productivity even if a fraction were devoted to more work time and it saves an employee approximately $2,000 in reduced fuel, maintenance and depreciation.
Enterprise perspective: Savings have been made in real estate costs ($387 million saved over the last six years and information technology ($24 million saved annually from low systems administration and energy costs).
Environmentally: Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by more than 2 metric tonnes per teleworker per year. Sun Microsystems has also measured reduced business travel.
Sun Microsystems employed a formal performance management system that was provided by manager’s ratings. This helped overcome manager distrust that teleworkers would be less productive. Their multi-year study comparing formal performance ratings year-to-year in the three employee categories provided that work at home employees had significantly higher performance ratings compared to flexible and assigned employees.