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Is Investing in Remote Collaboration Worthwhile?

December 22, 2017

Is Investing in Remote Collaboration Worthwhile?

Many organizations are realizing the benefits of having staff work remotely, including reduced office expenses, along with the ability to hire the best employees from a large talent pool. Time normally spent by workers commuting is often given back to the company in working hours, making the remote worker more productive; in fact, 53 percent of telecommuters work more than 40 hours per week. Work–life balance improvements for remote employees encourage greater output levels and company loyalty, especially important for the fastest-growing group in the workforce, the Millennials. Statistics show that 3.3 million full-time U.S. professionals, not including unpaid volunteers and self-employed workers, utilize their home as their primary place of work. In addition, telecommuting programs can help businesses save about $2,000 per year per employee and reduce employee turnover by 50 percent. Despite these benefits, how worthwhile is it for corporations to invest in remote collaboration? The answer is: It depends.

It really comes down to corporate commitment to telecommuting. Some companies simply expect employees to take their laptop and mobile device home and work from their kitchen table a few days a week. With stronger commitment to the work-from-home experience, organizations offer higher-quality tools such as softphones, allowing remote staff to place calls on their laptops using a corporate directory. The most dedicated level of investment is to provide high-quality video and audio, along with a computer camera or dedicated video device and integrated collaboration apps, allowing users to fully participate in point-to-point or multipoint meetings and share content with coworkers. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and the more a company invests in the concept of telecommuting, the better return it will receive.

Step One: Make the Decision
The first step is to make the decision as a company whether to allow employees to work from home or not and at what level. Statistics show that half the U.S. workforce has jobs that are compatible with telecommuting. Once the decision is made to allow remote working at the most productive level, IT needs to be involved to help implement the right broadband connections to provide a high-quality video experience without jitters and delays. Next, the appropriate equipment investment needs to be evaluated. Items like advanced-level headsets and speakers should be considered to improve audio quality. Management must determine how remote employees will work, collaborate, and communicate. Team-based instant messaging apps incorporate voice, video, presence, and knowledge-sharing tools to emulate the ability to stop by a coworker’s desk to ask quick questions and help reduce email chains. Plans should be developed on how to manage remote workers, how to build a remote-worker team, and how to create a remote-worker culture. Implementing an effective remote workforce requires planning and strategy and should not be taken lightly.

Step Two: Measuring Success
Once all of these decisions and plans are made, companies should determine how they will measure success. Performance measurements like work quality, quantity, cost-effectiveness, timeliness, retention rates, and employee satisfaction can be tracked to determine the ROI of work-at-home programs. Other things to prove remote-worker ROI include tracking the cost savings on office overhead, improvements in productivity, flexibility during emergencies like snowstorms, and the impact on the environment. Once implemented, strategies should be evaluated periodically to ensure they are meeting corporate goals.

Bottom line: The more involved a remote worker feels with the in-office team through the use of technology and careful planning, the more successful a remote-worker program will be for a corporation. Value-added resellers (VARs) are in the best position to educate customers on how to plan, implement, and measure these programs. This segment of the market continues to grow, making it a profitable one for VARs to engage in.

Does your company have a strategy to help customers build a remote-worker policy? Please comment below.