Week of September 20, 1999
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

Gil Gordon's Tell-All Site for Telecommuting

Alternative workplace strategies are one of today's hottest corporate real estate topics, and that's where we're headed with this Web site review . . . eventually.

First, though, it's informative to note that we initially intended to review a Web site solely dedicated to the virtual office. What we found, though, was that a huge number of virtual office sites that our search engine located simply no longer exist. In other words, they've apparently become so virtual that they've . . . vanished. Which brought to mind the famous explanation by an attorney that The Psychic Friends Network was declaring bankruptcy because of "unforeseen financial events."

And that, in not atypically roundabout fashion, brings us to this week's Web site, www.gilgordon.com, a solid, deep source of information on telecommuting, another major strategy in the alternative workplace toolkit. More and more companies have turned to telecommuting for a variety of reasons, chief among them the desire to cut occupancy costs and/or retain key employees by offering flexibility in workplace settings.

Mind you, this site designed and maintained by Gil Gordon Associates may not be for you if your company is one of the corporate big boys that already has a successful telecommuting program under way. Likely it will provide greater value for those companies that are just getting into opening up their telecommuting operations or rethinking existing ones. In such a technology-driven field in which change is constant, though, most users will find some helpful tips here.

For certain, Gil Gordon, the man behind this site, brings some impressive credentials to the subject. No Johnny-Come-Lately eager to cash in on the latest business buzzword, Gordon has been working in the area for a decade and a half. From October 1984 through May 1999, he published Telecommuting Review, a monthly industry newsletter, and he's co-authored two books on the topic: Telecommuting in the '90s: Myth vs. Reality and The Virtual Office.

It's the Content, Stupid!

None of that, of course, would matter if the site sucked. It doesn't. Instead, it contains an uncommon wealth of information from multiple perspectives, plus literally hundreds of helpful links. As the site explains, "Our goal is to provide one-stop service for employers, vendors, researchers, policy-makers and others interested in this rapidly evolving field." And on that, it delivers.

Granted, the site's design won't knock your socks off. (In fact, your shoes will also likely remain quite safely in place during viewing.) But this one isn't for the visuals; it's for the online content.

There's so much content here, in fact, that navigating it could be an overwhelming task. To counter that potential problem, the entire site has been conveniently grouped into four separate "groups of resources," as Gordon calls them:

  • "Do You Want To Telecommute,"
  • "Managing Telecommuters and Telecommuting Programs,"
  • "Researching Telecommuting and Teleworking," and
  • "Building Your Skills."
Here's a brief look at what you'll find in some of this site's major sections.

Beginning Telecommuting And Managing Telecommuters

"Do You Want To Telecommute": This section's content is primarily devoted to those considering becoming (as opposed to managing) telecommuters. The meat of this section is in the "Telecommuting Tools" section, and in the "Getting Started FAQ" and the "Financial Issues of Telecommuting FAQ." (The many FAQ sections, which distill telecommuting's complex issues into commonsensical text, are one of this site's overall strengths.)

The section doesn't provide job listings, but it has numerous links to other sites with both job listings and tips for becoming a telecommuter.

"Managing Telecommuters and Telecommuting Programs": This section of the site is designed for "people who are already managing telecommuters and remote workers or are considering doing so." A number of links are provided with guidance on distance management. This section's "Telecommuting Tools" content is focused on leading-edge telecommuting technologies and "network-centric computing issues that will be important to you as a manager." And, yes, there are strong FAQ sections, here, too, these focused on "Managers and Management," and "Administration and General Info."

Research, Skill-Building Tools

"Researching Telecommuting and Teleworking": This section's many links (listed under "Worldwide Resources") provide content that many users will find particularly valuable. Several portions of this site sections provide in-depth research into "telecommuting and teleworking, publications and theses, [and] newsletters . . . " This section also provides a number of articles, some available for downloading.

Among those articles, real estate pros may find particularly useful the "Real Estate/Virtual Office Tips" portion of this section (which is listed as an option after you click on this section's "Telecommuting Tools"). That option brings up a wide range of the heavy hitters in alternative workplace strategies, including Arthur Andersen, the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Environmental Design Research, the International Development Research Council and the Future@Work project in Seattle. (And, yes, we did, quite unexpectedly, find a link to - blush/gosh/shucks - Site Selection.)

"Building Your Skills": This section, as the site explains, will be "of most use . . . if you consider yourself a telecommuting pro and are already familiar with the basics." Rather than focusing on startup issues, this section is designed to provide "up-to-the-minute info" in areas that include "Products and Services," "Publications," "Telecommuting Tools," "Suggested Reading List," and Telecommuting Review. The now-defunct print version of Telecommuting Review has evolved into Web-only content, with twice-monthly site "updates" (on the 10th and 25th of each month) that are comprised of analysis, commentary and occasional guest columns. (As Gordon explains, those updates replace the merciless task he faced, largely alone, in grinding out 175 straight, 16-page, monthly issues of Telecommuting Review. Other items that formerly appeared in Telecommuting Review, such as product and service announcements, new books and conference listings now go into the appropriate sections of this site.)

A Few More Site Props

Finally, there are a few other aspects of this site to recommend to users.

One is its lack of parochialism. Although Gil Gordon Associates is based in Monmouth Junction, N.J., this site assiduously skirts the "my-concerns-end-at-the-U.S.-border" orientation that plagues so many American-based Web sites. A considerable portion of the site can be translated into a number of languages (through Alta Vista's translation feature), with the range of languages including (in addition to English) French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese or Spanish.

Secondly, all of this site's content is free (although, as you would expect, some of the linked organizations are looking to forge an intimate relationship with your wallet). The site is also winningly subtle about self-promotion (it's there, all right, but it's certainly not intrusive).

And the final plus for this site is its "Natural Escape" section. Apropos of nothing (not altogether a bad thing in the online world), this site section features some of Gordon's fine photographs of some seriously beautiful natural surroundings, accompanied by brief, thoughtful commentaries and quotes. Granted, the Natural Escape section won't do diddley for your company's bottom line. At least not directly. It does, however, provide one of those little mental health breaks usually centered on beauty and/or humor, which provide momentary respite from today's unforgivingly rapid hurly-burly.

Here's perhaps another momentary escape, albeit a decidedly less beautiful one, which leads us back to where this column began: Why did the Psychic Friends Network need a phone line? With those psychic powers, couldn't they simply have processed transactions through the ether?

Just wondering.



©1999 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.