As a business owner, you already understand the benefits of employee telecommuting, but implementing a remote workplace is still a high hurdle to clear – especially if you don’t have the right telecommuting tools.
In this final installment of our three blog posts on telecommuting, we cover specific telecommuting technology you can use in your mobile office, and how to best train your team (whether in whole or in part) to work remotely. In the first post, we addressed the benefits and challenges of working remotely. And in the second post, we discussed how to match mobile technology with appropriate management expectations.
Telecommuting Tools & How To Implement Them
For any task, having the best tools is critical for your success, and remote employees are no exception. Without the right telecommuting technology, your mobile office is doomed to fail. Harness the power of the tools outlined below and implement them to allow business productivity to continue no matter where your team members are located.
Telecommuting Technology for a Smooth Transition
A mere internet connection is not enough to ensure success for your remote workplace. Rather, you need to engineer your entire business IT infrastructure to be versatile enough to meet the needs of both in-house and remote employees.
Use the following specific tools to enhance communication and collaboration between local and mobile team members.
- Document sharing and collaboration: Keep all team members up-to-date on the current versions of important documents, spreadsheets and presentations with a cloud document-sharing platform accessible from anywhere.
o Examples: Microsoft SharePoint or Google Drive
- Email tools: Email shouldn’t be just an on-premise platform for your business – not if you want employees to check email while on business trips or while working from home. Ensure that your email solution is mobile-office ready.
o Examples: Google Apps for Business or Microsoft Outlook
- Instant messaging solutions: While nothing quite replicates quick conversations you have with in-person employees, an instant messaging client offers you similar efficiency for short, conversational messages.
o Examples: Skype or Microsoft Lync
- Scheduling and calendars: With a mobile office, your employees are no longer guaranteed to be working in the same time zone or on the same schedule. That’s why it’s important to have the right calendar and scheduling tools so that all of your team members stay in sync.
o Examples: Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar
- Conference calls and phone systems: To stay in touch with remote employees for meetings and conference calls – and to answer your office calls from home – you need to have the right phone or VoIP system in place.
o Examples: WebEx for conference calls or a VoIP solution for answering remote phone calls
- Video conferencing: Conference phone calls aren’t always enough for achieving your meeting objectives, so be sure to employ a video conferencing solution for talking face-to-face and sharing screens with remote employees and clients.
o Examples: Google Hangouts (part of Google Apps), Skype or Microsoft Lync
- Project management software: Your tasks and projects shouldn’t be put on hold just because your project managers couldn’t make it into work. Instead, implement a cloud-based project management solution to keep everyone on task.
o Examples: Basecamp, RoboHead or LiquidPlanner
- Enterprise social networks: With telecommuting employees, you sometimes lose the opportunities for social sharing and creative brainstorming that come naturally when in-person. Overcome this disadvantage by leveraging the power of an enterprise social network.
o Examples: Yammer (by Microsoft) or tibbr
- Wikis: For companies requiring a high degree of collaboration or internal reference, a company-wide Wiki may be the right solution for ensuring all team members operate from and reference the same best practices.
o Examples: Wikia
Your Remote Workplace Implementation Checklist
Having the right telecommuting tools for your remote workplace isn’t enough to ensure success – you also need to take the right steps to ensure your remote employees are effectively contributing to your business. To accomplish a smooth transition to a mobile office, run through this checklist of implementation steps:
- Confirm Familiarity with Telecommuting Tools
Your telecommuting technology is only as good as the employees who utilize it. Before you allow remote employees to work from home, test their proficiency in using the mobile technology solutions you have in place. Teaching team members to harness your new business IT infrastructure is much easier in-person than when already working remotely.
- Establish Clear Communication
Let telecommuting employees know your established timeline for work-from-home requests. The further in advance they send you their requests, the smoother your transition becomes for project managers and supervisors. Even for weather-related requests, it’s better to know the day before rather than 6 a.m. on the morning of a snowstorm.
- Enforce a Focused Workplace
Remote employees should have workplace guidelines and expectations to follow, even though they’re working from home. For example, their workspace should be quiet and free of distractions: Dogs shouldn’t be barking during phone calls and children shouldn’t be running through the background of a videoconference.
- Agree On Access and Availability
Set a common understanding with your remote employees in regards to their access and availability to the mobile office. How are team members expected to check in? When should team members be available for meetings and regular communication? These concerns are particularly important for remote employees in other time zones.
Telecommuting is a key strategic lever in growing your business, both for retaining employees and for keeping in constant contact with customers. By integrating the right mobile technology into your business IT infrastructure, you ensure that your business leverages the value of telecommuting to its fullest extent – driving your company to reach its growth point.
Interested in leveraging the power of telecommuting for your business? Click below to schedule a brainstorming session with a PointMan™ from Lazorpoint to discuss how to best prepare your business IT infrastructure for a remote workplace.