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Providing High-speed Internet is like providing water and electricity in the classroom.
Lynn D. Smith, Superintendent
Brewton City Schools, AL
Telepresence and telecommuting have continued to rise in everyday use among employees for even the biggest of corporations. The old logic of face-to-face office communication being important is now made possible through technology. And some studies have even shown that workplace collaboration flourishes even more among employees working collectively from different places. The truth is, technology has afforded us to have a highly relational experience in the workplace without having to be in the same room. We’ll unpack the many benefits for companies to consider when deciding whether remote employees and offices is the right move for their business.
In 2017, FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics partnered together to create The State of Telecommuting in the US Employee Workforce report. The report looked at the state of telecommuting in the US and those findings delivered some interesting statistics:
When looking at remote offices, the benefits have routinely had a major impact on the environment, by reducing travel to and from the office, reducing greenhouse gases, saving time by cutting out the need for travel which helps budgetary expenses, etc. But while many employees and businesses find telecommuting to be a positive option for their workforce, broadband is a crucial component to reaping the full benefits.
Telecommuting On the Rise
In relative terms, telecommuting consists of having employees that work outside of the traditional office setting or location. While most think this notion is a work from home scenario, remote offices can take place in co-office environments, the library, a coffee shop, outdoors and more.
When it comes to talent – both attracting and retaining it– greater opportunities exist when remote work is offered and on the negotiation table. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be an estimated 1 million computing jobs that will not be filled by 2020. This reflects findings from the recruiting firm Manpower, which recently completed their 2018 Talent Shortage Survey, showing that the global talent shortage is at a 12-year high and is affecting several industries.
Technology is one such industry that is being challenged by a talent shortage. We discussed how technology companies are looking outside of their city limits in order to attract a more qualified and skilled work force. When you open up the geographical boundaries of hiring it increases the talent pool to choose from. And companies are realizing that finding the right talent is more important to a company’s productivity and growth vs. filling a seat in a cubicle.
The Workplace of the Future
Employees who work remotely actually find themselves to be more productive when working from home versus working at the office. In an infographic by SurePayRoll, employees noted what prohibited their productivity when in a traditional office setting:
This is a big misconception about telecommuting and remote work - that employees aren’t nearly as productive if they are at home and not in an office environment. The Harvard Business Review investigated this notion in 2014, when they conducted a survey on the employees of the Chinese travel website Ctrip.
Not only did the company save money on physical office space and furniture, the very idea they thought would be reflected in the study, but they saw an increase in their daily customer call tasks from those who chose to work from home. Those that worked from home completed 13.5% more calls in a day than their office counterparts. While being in the office can give employers a sense of accountability, it can also be distracting for employees – more break times, long lunches, office 'chit-chat', and 'water cooler’ behavior.
But if remote employees aren’t able to see one another, how will they be able to communicate or collaborate together?
Imagine the workplace of the future where there are actually no physical employees to be found. All work is done remotely, with productive and collaborative employees. Thanks to increasing innovations with technology, that future is already here. With the use of video conferencing apps and programs, remote employees can see each other in real time, while also sharing their work screens for additional help.
Using chat programs, like Slack or Skype, allows for employees to be in contact with each other throughout their workday, so that they don’t feel as though they are separate from the rest of the team. The reverse of that, having a quiet area to work in without interruptions, is equally beneficial. As Ctrip discovered, without the noisy office background, their work at home employees were able to accomplish more tasks during their workday.
With the lack of a daily commute or the need to run errands only during lunch, remote employees are better engaged with both their work and with each other. Telepresence has offered a quality of life component that so many employees are striving to achieve.
Constructing the Remote Office of the Future
Communication is key when it comes to telecommuting. It’s not just about having employees talk to one another, it’s about having an established routine that encourages interaction over the internet. Happyforce, a company that provides a feedback tool for employees to participate, has no physical offices, but utilizes the internet to conduct their business. All of their workforce work from home and to ensure collaboration and communication, they regularly have virtual coffee chats – where they discuss their everyday lives – and even virtual lunches, so people can eat together and further engage to cultivate relationships.
In order to provide both in-house and remote employees with the ability to chat and communicate with one another, organizations need to ensure they are using a fast, reliable and robust broadband delivery mechanism. Video conferencing takes up a large chunk of bandwidth and that doesn’t include any other program that might be running in the background (such as email, browsers, external programs, etc). Accessing files that the group may be working on in real time means that the bandwidth to share data rich files has to support the upload/download needed to review pieces at the same time. Gigabit+ Fiber Solutions from Mediacom Business provides the data pipe that businesses need without restriction, offering capacity up to 10 Gigabit and beyond. Through 100% fiber-optic data and voice solutions, businesses can provide the multi-site / multi-user connectivity needed to be able to power all of these productivity-worthy technologies which are only as good as the broadband backbone behind it.
While some companies are hesitant to offer the ability to work from home, other organizations are discovering the benefits to the practice, especially as more and more millennials enter the workforce and push for the ability to work remote either part time or full time as well as the hesitancy of packing up their lives and moving. Telecommuting opens up new avenues and opportunities, not just for those seeking to work from home, but for businesses to help cut costs and find talent that might not accessible due to their geographic area.
How Soon Will You Be Working from Home?
The State of Telecommuting in the US in 2017 – Work Flexibility.org
FlexJobs 2017 State of Telecommuting in the US
Productivity Prohibitors: How to Stop Them in Their Tracks
Manpower’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey
To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work From Home
Why Remote Work Thrives in Some Companies and Fails in Others