On any given weekday, I can participate in several meetings, collaborate with colleagues, work on projects, check in with clients and still make it to my son’s 5 p.m. basketball game.
My productivity secret: I work from home.
It’s not much of a secret anymore. Organizations are realizing the promise of having staff work remotely. What coworkers save in commuting time, they often make up for in work hours. They can pop in and out of meetings, do away with distracting hallway chit-chat and achieve a better work-life balance, resulting in higher satisfaction and productivity. Plus, organizations can hire the best candidates, regardless of location.
There’s one caveat: Many organizations are not realizing these benefits because, while they may embrace the concept of remote workers, they’re not thinking through the overall work-from-home experience. As a result, remote workers often feel disconnected from the office culture.
Organizations make varying levels of commitment to the work-from-home experience. At the base level is the user at his kitchen table working with a notebook computer and a mobile phone once or twice a week. The next tier is when employers provide higher-quality tools such as soft phones, enabling users to make calls on their notebooks through a corporate directory. The third level of investment is high-quality video and audio — supported by a computer camera or dedicated video device with integrated collaboration apps — so users can fully participate in point-to-point or multipoint meetings and share content with coworkers.
But even when an organization invests in audio or video equipment, there’s often something missing that holds users back from feeling included in the office culture. It might be that he or she finds the audio from conference calls hard to hear or that video conferences are jittery and hard to follow.
Organizations can make the remote-worker experience far better than it is today. The first step is to make the commitment — either allow users to work from home or not. It’s a mistake to just test the waters without thinking through the experience and architecture and making the right investment upfront. This investment includes establishing the necessary infrastructure to support remote work, such as broadband connections for a high-quality video experience and advanced headsets or speakers to improve audio quality.
If an organization’s leaders go all in, they must think about how remote workers will work, meet and collaborate. How will they join meetings with colleagues in the corporate office? How is the audio quality in conference rooms and in home offices? Can remote and on-site users see one another? Can they share content, and, if so, how? Can remote workers give and get real-time feedback?
Workers don’t collaborate only in conference rooms. They stop by each other’s desks with quick questions. Team-based instant messaging applications re-create such experiences for remote users. They incorporate voice, video, knowledge-sharing and presence tools, which enable workers to see who’s available. These applications, which are catching on in the corporate world, have the added benefit of reducing the overwhelming influx of email and voicemail messages.
When I speak with organizations ready to make the investment in a remote-worker culture, we discuss their office experiences. I ask about their workgroups and customers, how they measure success, who they meet with the most and how, where they work and what their workflows look like. I listen to their frustrations, and based on their current technology, I help them create a strategy roadmap and orchestrate a successful work experience that will enable remote workers to feel connected to the office.
And because I practice what I preach, I can still make it to my son’s game before tip-off.
Learn more about how to make your business more remote-worker friendly and get a collaboration consultation to see what custom tools are available for a more productive workforce.
Also, don’t forget to check out BizTech Magazine for the latest in collaboration trends.
As always, feel free to leave a comment below with any questions.