By Bill Castle

Bill Castle

“Xerox’s Virtual Office program eliminates geographical boundaries in the workplace and broadens our access to a diverse, talented workforce.” — Bill Castle, chief diversity officer and vice president of business process effectiveness for Xerox

(From the editor: In the photo above, the first women who took advantage of Xerox’s flexible workplace. JoAn Blodgett is second from the right. Also pictured, her son, a very young Bill Blodgett, industry leader of hospitality, travel and logistics services at Xerox. Photo courtesy of JoAn Blodgett)

Working from home may seem like an employment perk that has become popular with the rise of the Internet and mobile phones. For Xerox, it’s been part of our culture and how we do business for nearly half a century.

It’s not a coincidence that Xerox is among the highest-ranking firms on FlexJob’s 2015 list of the Top 100 Companies with Remote Jobs. Nor does it surprise me that a recent Forbes article described Xerox as being “among some of the most forward thinking and progressive companies when it comes to offering telecommuting options.” Transaction processing, a key service Xerox provides to help clients capture and manage data, actually began in the home of JoAn and Jack Blodgett in the mid-1960s.

Back then, companies would hire keypunch operators to enter data onto cards that computers could read. For example, the information on credit card sales receipts had to be manually typed into a keypunch machine to start the funds transfer process — a far cry from the digital transactions we generate today by the simple swipe of a magnetic strip on a plastic card. The keypunch machines punched little rectangular holes into a sturdy paper card. Thereafter, the card was processed through a reader that translated the holes into letters and numbers that a computer could understand in order to transfer money. From sales to purchases and time-card hours, any information companies wished to process through a computer had to be keypunched first.

JoAn worked in keypunch data entry at a telephone company. She figured she could do this work from home so she could care for her bedridden daughter. The Blodgetts bought a keypunch machine in 1965 to support her work for various customers. To keep up with the growing workloads, she began extending this work-from-home opportunity to other women in her Salt Lake City neighborhood.

Blodgett Keypunching Co.

A Xerox service evolves: The first computers arrive at the Blodgett Keypunching office in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of JoAn Blodgett.

A Global Corporate Strategy is Born

In 1968, JoAn incorporated Blodgett Keypunching Co., with a staff of five. In the ‘70s, the business relied on more than 100 remote, keypunch employees and established its first office to include other technologies and data-entry services. It became part of Unibase Technologies, the data management company co-founded in 1985 by their sons, Jim and Lynn. Unibase was later acquired by Affiliated Computer Services in 1996, and Xerox acquired ACS in 2010.

Today, approximately 12,500 Xerox employees are dedicated to transaction processing. And, the concept that allowed a better work-life balance in the fledgling computer industry is part of our workforce strategy.

About two years ago, Xerox finalized a global work-from-home policy that applies to our 130,000-plus employees in more than 180 countries. In the U.S. alone, more than 8,000 employees — 11 percent of our domestic workforce – are remote staff who form part of our Virtual Office program. Thousands more telecommute for work on an as-needed basis. Remote positions range from data entry and customer care to technical and leadership roles.

Employees are our greatest asset, so it’s a priority to make Xerox a great place to work. This means providing support, tools and information to help people grow, excel in their roles. That is why telecommuting will continue to play a strong role in our culture.

For employees, working from home means lower commuting costs, and more control over their work environment and family life. For the company, eliminating geographical boundaries in work broadens our access to the diverse, talented workforce necessary to foster our employees’ growth, and to operate in today’s global economy.

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