Remote work is the future and organizations that want to compete will have to adapt
People like working remotely. In its most recent State of the American Workplace Report, Gallup found that "from 2012 to 2016, the number of employees working remotely rose by four percentage points, from 39% to 43%, and employees working remotely spent more time doing so."
Why? Workers like the flexibility and studies show they're actually more productive. Employers see the benefit in a larger pool of talent to choose from in today's tight labor market, and it's also less expensive if they can cut back on travel and/or don't have to pay for the overhead required for traditional office space. Interestingly though, Gallup also found that people who work remotely 60 to 80 percent of the time are the most engaged – with people who spend 100 percent of their work time either at home or in an office is the least engaged – meaning a balance is best rather than one absolute or the other.
Not all jobs can be done remotely, and the concept comes with its own challenges. Workers need the self-discipline to stay on task, and employers should have clear policies and expectations for workers who are not on site that include availability and responsiveness.
Technology Driving the Trend
A big factor in the uptick in remote work is the improvement in collaboration and communication tools. That's only going to get better as new Wi-Fi and 5G cellular mobile communication technology comes online. 5G will not only include exponentially faster data speeds; it will bring lower latency - which is the time it takes a packet of information to travel round trip between two points. Low latency is critical for improved apps in the workplace that include video conferencing and document collaboration. Better mobile communication will add new possibilities for workers who want to contribute from anywhere at any time.
Effective Digital Infrastructure Will Be Necessary
Organizations looking to leverage the benefits of remote work will need the necessary digital infrastructure in place – and that goes beyond connectivity. Remote employees must be able to work seamlessly with each other. For example, CompuCom's brand new South Carolina headquarters leverages Cisco Webex TeamsTM in its smart conference rooms with video conferencing, document sharing, and digital smart boards that allow notes to be saved and shared. Other collaboration apps like Slack®, Office 365TM, and Google G SuiteTM take the place of traditional email with instant messaging and offer document collaboration. Teams can stay on track with agile project management tools like Asana® and JiraTM.
There's also security to think about. Sensitive data can't be out there on the internet for hackers to easily find. For those workers who need access, a robust virtual private network (VPN) will be required that's easy for them to connect with and has the required bandwidth, but will also keep the bad guys out.
Before investing in transformation, it will be critical to look at your overall goals and what your teams will need in the way of infrastructure and apps to be successful. If you need help, partnering with digital solutions experts who use strategic planning like design thinking will give you a better chance of finding a winning strategy.
Ways to Drive Video Collaboration Adoption
Part of your plan should also be promoting the adoption of video collaboration, so you get the quickest return on your investment. There is more and better collaboration when people can see each other and work on projects together. Sixty-two percent of executives agree that video conferencing is superior to audio conferencing, but still, some employees default to audio in meetings. You can only reap productivity, teamwork, and cost reduction benefits if people use technology.
- Keep it simple and provide training – Even in today's hyperconnected world where everyone has a smartphone, it's important to remember that not all employees are equal in terms of technological sophistication and if something is hard to use then they're less likely to use it. Your video conferencing solution should be hassle-free and compatible with the wide range of devices that employees use – especially with the rapid expansion of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) policies in workplaces. Easy-to-access, easy-to-understand, and helpful training on new systems is important too.
- Ensure quality – this goes back to digital transformation and having the required infrastructure, but nothing will guarantee low adoption rates for a new technology faster than a poor user experience. Glitchy video, poor audio, dropped connections – we've all seen it in video conferencing. Again, improved connection speeds with 5G will help, but you must choose a quality product and have the in-house connectivity required for it to work well.
- Measure performance and hold people accountable – managers must insist that employees use the technology and track adoption to make sure the organization gets an acceptable return on the investment. If there are tech problems, then IT support should be engaged to get to the bottom of them to ensure the best user experience possible.
Remote work is the future. Richard Branson recently predicted the 9-5 work life we all know will end in the next decade. Organizations that want to compete will have to adapt, and there's plenty of worthwhile incentive to do so, including lower costs, improved productivity, and a better labor pool.
If you're considering new remote worker plans or looking to improve your existing systems, it may be time to collaborate with a digital transformation expert.