Musical Chairs

Checking Out Checking In

Successful hoteling starts by involving all members of your company in the planning stages, Hammer says. Only when you accommodate every interest, from financial to personal, can your hoteling plan work. "Those that try to implement it but only consider the real estate [aspect] don't succeed," Hammer warns.

Much early work must be spent creating definitions and guidelines. For instance, entrepreneurs must decide which members of their staff will be candidates for hoteling. (Hoffman says in his company, any employee whose job takes him or her out of the office more than 33 percent of the time is a potential candidate.) Entrepreneurs must also specify the technology that will be involved, from laptop computers and cell phones to the more powerful network servers and remote control software that are likely to be needed at the office.

Creating a consistent hoteling policy is important for a variety of reasons, says Karol Rose, managing director at Dependent Care Connection, an alternative workplace consulting firm in Westport, Connecticut. "Otherwise, it becomes an employee-relations nightmare," she warns. "Managers don't know what they can offer, human resources has to get involved in every arrangement, and it becomes very labor-intensive."

Consistency also allows entrepreneurs to provide a uniform message to employees, recruits and others who may look askance at the idea of an office job that lacks a permanent desk. Communicating the reasons and rewards of hoteling to workers is a crucial but often overlooked part of successful implementation, says Jim Miller, general manager of extended workplace solutions for US West in Englewood, Colorado. Although the former Bell operating company makes its money by selling technology to companies implementing hoteling, Miller says technology is only part of the answer.

Along with communication, training and support are also key components. Users have to be trained to quickly learn and use slightly different computer and telephone setups. Information technology support staff may also have to be beefed up. The Hoffman Agency, for instance, has two full-time IT support people, twice what Hoffman estimates he'd need without hoteling.

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This article was originally published in the April 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Musical Chairs.

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