Mention teleworking to someone and it’s almost a given they’ll joke about working in pajamas. However, regardless of whether employees work from home while wearing pajamas, khakis, or even no pants at all, there’s no question that this work arrangement is becoming increasingly commonplace. According to Gallup, there has been a 37 percent rise in telecommuting over the past decade.
Even more interesting is that the perception of productivity while working from home is also on the rise. Gallup also reported that 58 percent of people believe employees who work from home are as productive as those who work in the office. This opinion likely stems from the many tools now available to make it easier than ever to be a part of the virtual workforce.
The following are five tools every organization should implement to help telecommuters get the most out of the arrangement:
1. Chat App
When working on-site, co-workers always seem to be dropping by, whether to brag about their fantasy football team, insult the company coffee maker, or, you know, talk about actual work. With a chat app, remote workers can have on-the-fly conversations similar to those they’d have in the office. And since the app doesn’t involve a burden or extra step, co-workers are much more likely to communicate with remote workers (hopefully more about work than football). You can also use this tool to tell when a remote employee is online, giving you peace of mind about their productivity.
2. Web Conferencing
Though email, chat, and phones can fill in a lot of the communication gaps for virtual employees, it’s always nice for employees to be able to work face-to-face. By using video chat and web software, telecommuters can get as close as possible to the rest of the team without actually being in the same room. While the “There’s no ‘I’ in team” cliche is overused, there is some merit to it. You need to have a relationship with your co-workers to feel like a team, and there really is no substitute for face-to-face communication when it comes to boosting overall productivity. The downside is that you can no longer roll your eyes when someone proves your “there are no dumb questions” edict wrong, but don’t worry — you can always fake a momentary technical glitch.
3. Flexible Business Telephone Service
One of the challenges with telecommuting is that even though employees often work in different places, such as client sites, home offices, and company offices, they’re still expected to pick up on the first ring. By using a business phone system that gives employees one identity across all their devices, they can seamlessly use voice, mobile, and video when communicating with others. While traditional wire-line service does not allow this capability, cloud-based services do have this feature. Additionally, with a hosted Voice over Internet Protocol phone system, employees can take their IP desk phones home, plug into high-speed internet, and work as if they are still in the office.
It’s essential for your business phone system to allow employees to integrate mobile apps to increase productivity and communications. Mobile apps tie on-the-go employees into the full business phone system as if they’re in the office, which allows for increased client service and employee satisfaction. Many mobile apps offer business text messaging as well, so employees can maintain a business identity when texting on their smartphone. This helps employees separate their personal and professional communications.
4. Screen-Sharing App
Some of the best ideas come from employees working on documents together. However, that can be challenging when one employee is across town or even across an ocean. With a screen-sharing app, you can share a screen with as many co-workers as you need. And, if you’re the boss, screen sharing lets you essentially do the equivalent of stopping by employees’ cubicles to check in on their progress.
5. Cloud-Based Project Management Solution
With so many moving pieces, it’s important to know the exact status of each part of a project and where it’s heading. When teams use a cloud-based project management solution, all members can see exactly what’s going on and what they’re responsible for in real time, no matter their location.
By taking advantage of a full slate of technology and working with on-site co-workers to develop a process for working together and communicating effectively, remote employees can be just as productive as those working in the main office — regardless of their stance on pants.
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