A few years ago, when your most promising team member announced she would have to relocate from New York City—the location of your office—to San Francisco because her husband got an incredible new job offer, you were left with a near impossible decision: either attempt a remote work situation with your star employee or part ways with someone you saw quickly rising to the top.
Fortunately, in today’s 21st century work environment, employers no longer have to head down this road of “what ifs.” Not only have innovations paved the way for an increasingly ubiquitous work from home movement, but studies have found that letting your employees work remotely actually bolsters productivity. As a result, one in five Americans are currently working from home, and that number is expected to increase by 63 percent in the next five years, according to a Telework Research Network study. Moreover, a Staples Advantage survey found that more than 50 percent of employers feel remote workers are more productive than on-site employees. Further, an overwhelming 93 percent argue that work-from-home programs benefit both the employee and the company.
So with the statistics in favor of you supporting a mobile workforce movement, what needs to be on your checklist to guarantee uninterrupted business flow and to augment both your in-house and remote staffers’ productivity?
Your first instinct may be to let your employee use his or her personal laptop when working remotely. After all, not having to invest in a new laptop will certainly save your company in the long term… right? Wrong. Not only are personal laptops and desktops at risk of already being compromised and filled with viruses from pervious use, but they are also more likely to not have the proper technological support to successfully mirror their on-site work station or perhaps run into software licensing issues for programs they need to do their job.
For example, if your remote worker is a call center agent, he or she will need access to proper contact center technologies like call recording, a sophisticated CRM suite and call forwarding. A sales representative, on the other hand, may require a fully-baked videoconferencing solution, a sophisticated webcam and functional microphones and speakers in order to host virtual meetings with clients located overseas or several time zones away.
By equipping your remote team with best-of-breed technology, especially those that leverage the cloud, you allow your employees to focus on the tasks at hand rather than their technological limitations. Moreover, your IT team can directly manage these assets, from being able to log in remotely to the computer to being able to troubleshoot on a moment’s notice.
Competitive Office Phone System
The capabilities your employees enjoy at work should be no different than the ones they enjoy at home. For example, if your company offers an advanced business VoIP solution in the office, then your IT team needs to find a way to bring that same upgraded office phone system to your remote workers. It would be unfair to withhold the multitude of calling features that a VoIP-based phone system affords (like caller ID, call forwarding, call recording, intercom groups, paging groups, phone alerts and voicemail to e-mail notification) from your remote workforce.
In fact, with so many benefits to gain from VoIP, the global VoIP services market—including residential and business VoIP services—totaled $63 billion in 2012, up nine percent from 2011, according to Infonetics Research. Moreover, due to heightened demand for enterprise cloud-based services, hosted VoIP and UC services revenue grew 17 percent in 2012 from 2011.
“The market for VoIP services has moved well beyond the early adopter stage to mainstream status in many developed countries,” Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP, UC, and IMS at Infonetics Research contends. “New geographic regions are opening up, and SIP trunking and hosted UC continue to heat things up, fueling growth.”
As you take the critical steps toward better preparing your mobile workforce for their new work environment, be sure to cast an eye toward augmenting your team’s at-home office phone system.
Unified Communications Suite
Unified communications solutions (UC), or solutions that enable the convergence of real-time communications with non-real time communications, are an integral part of supporting the remote work movement. That’s because these solutions equip employees with a set of tools that completely simulate the office environment, allowing them to communicate with colleagues and customers instantly, accurately and seamlessly.
With the growing popularity of the work from home movement, it comes as no surprise that UC adoption amongst enterprises and small- to medium-sized businesses is on the uptick as well. For instance, after surveying ICT decision makers and employees across several verticals and 18 countries, the “Dimension Data 2013 Global UCC Study” found that 78 percent of IT decision makers have a current strategic plan and budget in place to implement “select components” of unified communications and collaboration (UCC). In addition, 43 percent have a budget for “most components” of UCC and 42 percent have a budget to proceed with investment in “all or most aspects” of UCC.
From enhancing communications with unified messaging, Find-Me-Follow-Me and integrated voice, fax and email to improving collaboration with document sharing and conferencing, UC provides a wealth of capabilities to keep your business model more agile, flexible and scalable than ever before.
While we are knee-deep in the technological boom—where technologies like time card software, video streaming and screen sharing solutions like GoToMeeting, JoinMe, and others are available—there is no limit to what you can do to improve upon the work at home experience. Your job as an employer is to identify the right technologies, set expectations for employee accountability and outline clear policies that are agreed upon by both you and your remote worker. As a result, instead of saying “goodbye,” your top-performing employee can say “hello” to a transformative new working experience.
Need a little extra inspiration to jump-start your mobile workforce movement? Then click here to check out eight additional tips to turning your remote workers into at-home heroes.