Why the time is now right for teleworking

A couple of recent surveys have identified something of a paradox when it comes to mobile and flexible working.

One survey, by Microsoft Windows Mobile (www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile), found that the number of companies offering some kind of mobile working had dropped to 50% — down from 60% on the same time last year. Companies are apparently reluctant to allow staff to work from home, while employees themselves are also resisting the idea. It’s in case they are seen not to be clocking up the required number of hours at a time when firms are cutting back. Yet mobile and flexible working has been shown to increase productivity and reduce costs.

It also found that staff were shunning home working so that they could “look busy” in front of their bosses.

Nobody is suggesting that mobile and flexible working is a panacea for all economic ills. It has some drawbacks as well as advantages, best summed up by a guide on NI Business Info (www.nibusinessinfo. co.uk).

In this guide it is suggested that teleworking may cause difficulty in managing home workers and monitoring their performance. It is also feared that it comes with extra data security risk and then there is the cost of additional equipment, such as laptops.

However looking at the advantages such as improvement in staff motivation and staff retention, an increase in staff productivity and a decrease in your company’s carbon footprint, teleworking, when managed effectively, certainly presents itself as an attractive solution for businesses. When you add its flexibility, and the cost savings on office space and equipment it can often stack up as a strong proposition.

And today’s Teleworking is not just a case of accessing your emails from home. Unified Communications, effectively streamlining all of a business’ existing communication channels such as email, voice and video through a single access point, has transformed the way in which a business can operate — allowing an employee to be as functional off-site as at the office.

With a formalised and well implemented system put in place, businesses can also achieve more effective information management allowing company-wide data to be more easily stored, searched, archived and disposed of, all in a more secure environment, as it is typically managed by fewer servers with cutting edge encryption standards.

Some jobs are ideally suited to teleworking — journalism, some travel agency work, designers and multi-sited businesses. Others are much less so. You might imagine that being a hotel concierge would be one unsuitable career in this respect. Think again.

Eight years ago, Anna Mariana-Morris became the concierge at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Santa Clara, California (http://santaclara.hyatt. com). She also works from home, 80 miles away. She appears to guests on a 42-inch plasma TV in the lobby and sees them via a webcam. If they need directions or other assistance, she looks the information up on the web at home and prints it out on a printer at the hotel reception. See a description of how it works at http://blog.tmcnet.com/makingcontact/our-virtual-concie-rge.asp.

She has become known as Virtual Anna and remarkably, before taking on the job at the hotel, she didn’t even have a computer. Now, she says she would find it impossible to go back to the old way of working. This is an imaginative example of a growing medium in the teleworking field: Telepresence.

Telepresence is the next generation of online video conferencing, using high definition screens and improved audio quality. It enables users to view their meeting counterpart as if they were sitting just across the table; seeing every facial expression and hearing every vocal tone without any time delays. Telepresence suites are becoming popular with multi-site businesses requiring extensive travel, ultimately saving time, money and the environment.

Eircom has invested in such suites in our business and we use it to save valuable travel time between office locations north and south as it facilitates internal meetings as well as client business.

At long last, all the technological ingredients are in place for teleworking to take off. All we need is for managers and staff to break free of the culture which insists that you need to be at your desk 15 minutes before the official start time and fifteen minutes after work officially finishes for the day.

Darren Lemon is general manager of eircom NI (www.eircomni.co.uk). His email address is Darren.lemon@eircomni.co.uk.

(source: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/opinion/watching-web/why-the-time-is-now-right-for-teleworking-14157379.html)

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in the Employee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit http://www.pinnacleproactive.com

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