Technology that Enables a Virtual Working Environment
This is a sample of the tools that are available. Check with your IT staff for more information on the tools' applicability in your organization.
Technology is continually making teleworking more effective for an increasingly social media-savvy workforce. And, tapping into the latest in telework-enabling tools could quell some of the lingering doubts about managing off-site workers.
While those apprehensions were reinforced by 3 prominent companies that dropped telework programs in 2013, WorldatWork's "Survey on Workplace Flexibility" shows that telework plays a vital role in organizations' flexible work programs.
"Those 3 high-profile cases have everyone asking 'Is this a new trend among companies regarding their telework programs?' and the response to the survey is a resounding 'No!'" says Rose Stanley, CCP, CBP, WLCP, CEBS, WorldatWork practice leader for benefits/work-life strategies, telework and recognition. WorldatWork surveys show that 98% of organizations are maintaining and increasing their flexible work programs with only 2% rescinding telework.
"In those 3 cases, the decisions about telework were part of a much bigger business concern," Stanley points out. "The big question for any flexible work program is 'Does it work for the business?'"
That answer for telework will increasingly be "yes" because of both a changing workforce and improved technology, she predicts. "There are more workers who are project people — in and out of jobs. By definition, these workers are more mobile and less on-site. Plus, workers are becoming more comfortable with technology replacing face-to-face meetings."
Changing With the Times
It's hard for HR professionals to keep up with advances in communications technology, so Stanley recommends conferring with your IT staff. You may be missing out on collaboration tools, such as Google Hangouts' free video chats, which make it more convenient and effective to conduct remote one-on-one and group meetings. (See accompanying list of technological tools that enable a virtual working environment.)
Such technology can help attract, retain and motivate young workers. "They aren't afraid of saying what kind of flexibility they expect in a job, while my generation asks about benefitsm," Stanley says.
Businesses are becoming more comfortable with off-site arrangements. "In the short run, we will continue to see teleworking grow incrementally as organizations and managers make it a more common practice," Stanley says. "Long term, it will change the way a lot of people work."
Still there are supervisors who question whether you can effectively manage an employee you can't see. "When someone says that, I ask them 'Are we visually watching them the entire day in the office?'" Stanley says. "It's a lot about comfort level and learning to manage a different way. But no matter the arrangement, it's about being productive — a manager sets expectations, communicates those expectations and is comfortable with a person's productivity."
About the Author
Jim Fickess writes and edits for WorldatWork's publications including workspan,Focus Benefits & Work-Life, Focus Compensation and Focus Sales Compensation.
Survey on Workplace Flexibility Highlights
The WorldatWork survey broke down telework into 4 options:
Top 5 Technologies Used With Teleworkers
20% — Virtual private network (VPN)
18% — Communication and collaboration software
18% — Telephone systems
16% — Instant messaging
9% — Shared desktops
Read the January edition of Benefits & Work-Life Focus.
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