I’m amazed there’s still a debate about whether workers can be productive outside of the office. As someone who’s worked in both an office environment and remotely, I know I’m far more productive when I work from home.
There’s no water cooler talk, no chit-chat with colleagues. I can work in relative peace and quiet. Taking a break usually involves doing dishes or laundry, which, quite frankly, doesn’t exactly entice me away from my computer.
Indeed, working from home usually means I work longer hours, simply because the home and office tend to blur together — there’s no “end of the day” feeling when leaving the office means walking a few paces from your desk over to the kitchen.
The issue for me is not productivity. The issue, rather, is staying connected. Working remotely can make you feel disconnected or isolated from the rest of the team. And sometimes you’re forgotten about when important events and projects come up. Out of sight, out of mind.
Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of Hint, says one of the five ways to be a rock star while working remotely is to check in daily (while making sure you’re not being annoying).
“At least once a day, touch base with your manager, whether it’s over the phone or via email so your boss knows what you’re up to. This is a great opportunity to share your wins,” she says. But it’s also important to engage with co-workers on a regular basis and to schedule weekly meetings.
I’d argue today’s unified communications can make this far more effective than a phone call or email. How many times have you picked up the phone for what should be a two-minute conversation, only to end up playing voicemail tag all day — and never actually having that conversation?
UC means remote workers can connect with their manager or colleagues wherever they happen to be, across devices and platforms (and even see if they’re busy or when they’ll be available). Add video to the mix, and they’re able to form a more personal connection.
Enterprise videoconferencing, document sharing and collaboration tools (including enterprise social media apps) can help put a face to a name and make remote workers feel like part of the team even when they’re not physically in the office. Of course, you also need a fast, reliable and secure network to support these tools.
Despite a few high-profile cases of companies reeling in remote workers (such as Yahoo’s ban on telework last year), the reality is more Canadians workers are more mobile than ever before.
According to IDC Canada’s Canadian Mobile Worker 2012-2016 Forecast, 68.9 per cent of employed Canadians today do at least some mobile work and, by 2016, that number will increase to 73 per cent.
Why? Not only are people fed up with ridiculously long commute times and looking for more work-life balance, it’s a lot easier to work from home these days — thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, the growth of cloud computing, faster network speeds and better connectivity.