Steve VobbeSenior Vice President
Global Sales and Accounts
The recession and housing bust of the past 4-5 years is not only hurting personal financial statements but it’s also changing the way people work. As jobs are still scarce and housing has not fully recovered, people find themselves in a bit of a quagmire: “I need a job but I can’t move because I can’t get out of my house.” So, more and more workers are taking jobs that require an “extreme commute” – usually defined as 90 minutes or more. This topic was covered in the August 16th, 2012 USA Today by Charisse Jones ( http://travel.usatoday.com/news/story/2012-08-16/Sour-economy-gives-rise-to-extreme-commuters/57099694/1 ). The article cited a report by NYU indicating that “the number of Americans with marathon commutes is on the rise.” According to the NYU report, the number of people who commute more than 90 minutes rose 2.1% between 2009 and 2010. In my state, Texas, it’s far greater as the report found 13% of workers in Dallas and Houston had extreme commutes in 2010.
The USA Today article also included several interviews with people commuting to work on an airplane - leaving Monday and coming back on Friday. The interviewees stated a number of challenges, but most importantly they talked about the impact on their family. They needed the job but did not want to uproot their family support system so they opted for commutes that include a few hours on an airplane. The downside, obviously, is that you don’t get to see your family and miss many special moments. Additionally, the NYU research also found that these workers could face long term physical, sociological and psychological issues including fatigue and even depression.
I can relate to many of the interviewees in the article. For years, companies have asked me to move and I’ve been reluctant to do so. My wife is from Houston, she runs a successful design firm, and my kids have a great support structure (great school, sports teams and friends) that make it hard for us to move. The difference between my situation and those taking “extreme commutes” is that I’ve been able to use technology to make me just as effective without traveling to a brick and mortar office every day. I use Glowpoint's OpenVideo® cloud and my custom built desktop video system to collaborate over video with my team from my home office. They are spread out across the U.S. using a variety of different types of systems from StarLeaf, Cisco, and Polycom, including software clients or Apps on iPads. Our headquarters is in Murray Hill, NJ and all day long I have formal and impromptu video meetings with team members in a Glowpoint office or at their home office.
Here is a picture of my video setup at home. We are using a Glowpoint cloud video service - two of my teammates are using StarLeaf systems, one is on Cisco Jabber, and we are collaborating on business trends.
Prior to joining Glowpoint, I led a team that was made up of team members located in Norway (HQ), the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, India and many cities across the US. Fortunately for me we had telepresence in all offices and home offices, and an executive management team that was extremely supportive of video. It was part of the culture there, and it was fully expected that everyone use video instead of the telephone whenever possible. So other than shifting meetings to deal with the different time zones effectively, leading the team was pretty easy and daily face-to-face meetings with team members were made possible with telepresence. Here at Glowpoint it’s the same situation.
For all of you that face “extreme commutes” the good news is that your company probably already has telepresence and you just need to be able to access it. And if your company does not currently have telepresence, it’s getting easier and easier to get it thanks to the continued growth of telepresence-as-a-service offerings (check out our All-Inclusive solution here). These offerings allow companies to either connect their existing telepresence endpoints (or other video enabled devices – ala BYOD) to the cloud, or purchase a package that includes the telepresence endpoint of their choice bundled with a cloud service. Either way, it allows them to quickly adopt video or expand usage without a large up front capital investment or local video infrastructure and support. This means that the barrier to entry for video is much lower than it used to be.
Customers can now outfit several employees and remote sales offices with HD telepresence with a cost ranging between virtually free and $500 per month depending on the office setup required. This low monthly price includes the telepresence endpoint and access to cloud services that provide a dial plan, multiparty video conferencing and B2B capabilities.
Video can’t eliminate all travel - but it certainly can cut down on those extreme commutes. And if you do have to travel, with your new telepresence capabilities, you will have the pleasure of seeing your family in high-def every night.