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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.

Hardware:

  • Basic laptop or desktop computers, including wireless, that have access to the Internet.
  • Tablets and mobile devices that can connect employees to the office.
  • Direct connection via phone — either through a virtual private network (VPN) that allows you to transfer your phone to your final destination or by transferring your calls to your home or cell phone.

Software:

  • VPN software, using secure networks accessing an organization's system, allows employees to use all the applications they have in the physical office.
  • Webmail. Many organizations have their own webmail access with apps to coordinate with tablet and mobile devices. This allows access to email without access to other systems within the organization and provides security for other systems.
  • Instant messaging (IM) to connect with other employees.
  • Video blogging, which is especially helpful when employees are collaborating across departments or offices.
  • Private social networks for internal staff. One example is Yammer, which is designed for company collaboration, file sharing, knowledge exchange and team efficiency.
  • Cloud technology, which is helpful for call centers that have widely dispersed staff.
  • Collaboration tools, which allow for virtual meetings, telepresence, sharing notes, accessing content and integrating input from remote team members during meetings. Below is a sample of collaboration tools that can work with desktop, tablet and mobile-enabled technology:
  • Cisco Webex — web conferencing combines file and presentation sharing with voice, HD video and meeting spaces.
  • Citrix GoToMeetings — an online meeting, desktop sharing and video conferencing software that enables the user to meet with other computer users, customers, clients and colleagues in real time.
  • Fuzebox, meetings and video conferencing compatible with any device.
  • Google Hangouts, free video chats for both one-on-one and group meetings, which automatically focuses on the person who's talking.
  • Huddle, a platform for collaborating on content in the cloud.
  • CoMindWork, consolidates project tasks, documents and ideas in a secure workspace.

The 411 on Telework Technology


By Jim Fickess, WorldatWork  |  January 2014

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:

  • Telework on an ad hoc basis (meet a repair person, sick child, etc.) — Offered by 83% of the responding organizations
  • Telework at least once per month —  56%
  • Telework at least once per week — 52%
  • Telework full time — 34%

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.

Contents © 2014 WorldatWork. No part of this article may be reproduced, excerpted or redistributed in any form without express written permission from WorldatWork.

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