While there has been some controversy about the desirability of remote workers, or telecommuters, it’s undeniably a growing trend. This isn’t surprising, given the high cost of commuting and office real estate.
Some organizations have serious concerns about allowing their employees to work off site. They feel they’ll lose control and make easy communication difficult when employees aren’t physically present. Many tech organizations are finding that this challenge isn’t as difficult to overcome when they take advantage of modern technology.
Take for instance Twitter. Twitter uses a device created by Double http://www.doublerobotics.com/ which allows an iPad to be attached to a robotic motorized platform keeping the remote worker in constant communication with the office no matter where they are.
Twitter isn’t the only organization to make use of this technology. Hundreds of well known companies such as Google, SAP, eBay, John Deere and Coca Cola are climbing on this particular technology band wagon.
The motorized console is located in the company office and is operated by the remote worker. They’re able to attend in office meetings and participate in office based conversations. It’s as if they were physically present – except they’re not. They could be across town, across the country or across the world.
This type of technology literally eliminates the issue of remote workers feeling isolated and cut off from the company culture and daily happenings. It doesn’t only allow the remote worker to feel part of the office, but it allows people in the office to see and speak with the worker just as if they were located in a cubicle right alongside. Here’s a video that shows how this works in practice: http://bcove.me/zseiu0q1
A recent CIO Magazine article suggests that if your organization is thinking about implementing a telecommuter policy there are a few things you should do to ensure that your office runs as smoothly as it would if your employees were all physically present. Author Sharon Florentine’s suggestions include:
- Take advantage of the available technology. As we’ve already discussed, the technology exists to easily integrate remote workers into the physical office. It’s a matter of both supervisors and remote workers learning to work the technology satisfactorily.
- Get comfortable on camera. Yes, we know, not everyone feels comfortable in front of the camera, but the trade off is being untethered from your desk and being able to be part of your office from anywhere in the world. With a little practice, it will feel natural and you will forget about the camera and find yourself focusing instead on the interaction.
- Learn to love video. Live streaming video is the key to maintaining that ‘in the room’ feeling. It’s essential for immediacy and invaluable in boosting engagement and collaboration.
- Don’t despise the small talk. The tendency when video conferencing is to jump right into the meeting. While this might save time initially, it could waste time later due to lack of rapport. Those few minutes of small talk are important in building a sense of community and understanding. Both of which are essential for productive collaboration.
- Communicate – a lot! This is a skill that everyone in the organization needs to cultivate. The best communication takes place when everyone understands exactly what’s being said. Never assume that the other party has all the background information and has automatically understood the details. Video conferencing is a good way to become more aware of how we’re communicating and taking steps to ensure that we constantly improve this skill.
If you’ve been nervous about working with employees remotely, or hiring someone from across the world, today’s technology should dispel those worries. It may take a little getting used to, but in the end, it’s a development that could enrich both the organization’s abilities as well as their culture.