Telecommuting Technology and Operations: The Basics

Telecommuting is a controversial topic.  It is controversial because many business leaders worry that their employees are being less productive by working from home. That’s the paradox – it has been shown that telecommuting actually helps to boost employee morale.  This, in turn, often results in better performance and improved productivity. There are other reasons why telecommuting could be a viable option  for your business.

There are a variety of ways to implement telecommuting options. Some employees could be offered telecommuting options on a part-time basis, while others may be purposely hired to work from home or else-where.  Ideally, those employees that require a high degree of interaction with other employees should be co-located at the business. Other employees that may benefit from uninterrupted work, where their job functions don’t require much interaction with other employees are the ideal candidates for telecommuting options.

Telecommuting is one of the areas where business operations and technology go hand in hand in order for this type of working arrangement to be successful. When small businesses were surveyed, their top requirement for the viability of telecommuting is the availability of low-cost and easy-to-use technologies  to support remote workers. The key to telecommuter workers’ productivity is to provide them with the right technology so that they are able to do their jobs just as effectively as if they were in the office, using the same technology that onsite workers use.  Ease of information access and exchange is critical in order for telecommuting to be beneficial for both the employer and the employee.

Remote access to the company server must be reliable and must be protected against unwanted malware in the same way that a directly connected computing device at the office would be.  The reliability of this connection will directly by affected by the data connectivity on the telecommuter’s side of the network. Therefore, it is critical that the modem and router are free and clear of other user clutter in order to afford the telecommuter the same speed of network access as their onsite colleagues.

Access to IT support should be available and just as effective as if the telecommuting worker is onsite.  Remote access software allows the onsite IT support staff to be able to access the telecommuter’s computing device in order to troubleshoot and ultimately fix the problem. A list and description of great (and free) remote access software can be reviewed here

There are at least five “must-have” technology tools that telecommuters should have.

1. Skype

This tool is easy to install and set up on the computing device.  It allows the Skype user to make free voice or video calls to other Skype users.  Skype has the capability for multiple call meetings, so that meetings can be conducted virtually.

2. Dropbox

This tool enables document storage and exchange. Documents that are created by the telecommuter’s colleagues are all available in one safe, well organized place.

3. Microsoft Office

With its email, calendar and contacts feature in Outlook and the ability to create professional presentations with PowerPoint; spreadsheets with Excel and documents in Word, this truly is a must have suite of software products. Learn more about the power of this software here.

4. GoToMeeting

This tool allows a host user to create and send meeting invites and then lead the meeting by sharing their screen with the meeting attendees. Attendees can interact with each other via a chat feature, as well as a microphone feature where they can ask questions.  Questions can also be posed by using the chat feature.

5. Youtube Channel

Ideally, the business leader sets up a business Youtube channel that can be used by the onsite and offsite team to interact with each other.  This tool elevates virtual meetings to a new level because the speaker/presenter is able to not only be seen by the audience on the channel, but can also share their screen.  It is like being in the same room with the speaker, as they toggle between their screen and their live feed presentation.

Lastly and importantly, telecommuting only works if the leadership team or the business owner backs and endorses this style of work.  In order for the telecommuting worker to do their job, they must be supported as any other onsite employee is by the management team.

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