Collaboration is at the Heart of the Telecommuting Debate


Collaboration is at the Heart of the Telecommuting Debate

By TMCnet Special Guest
Spence Mallder
  |  May 20, 2013

The merits and minuses of telecommuting have certainly been part of a lively business discussion in the aftermath of Marissa Mayer's announcement of the cancellation of telecommuting at Yahoo. Are people less productive when they work from home? Is accountability more difficult see? Further, when employees aren’t physically in the office, does collective creativity, collaboration and productivity in the workplace as a whole suffer?

While these are the issues under analysis, enterprises should think about the issue more holistically when contemplating the benefits in-person collaboration can have on productivity. While restricting telecommuting can be effective for improving collaboration in the central office or within regional locations, global organizations need to consider what strategies to pursue to enhance real-time collaboration as a whole. Leveraging enterprise collaboration philosophies and technologies is essential because effective collaboration cannot always happen on its own regardless of location.

The principles of social business and innovations in technology have obviously improved the ability to work from across offices, regions, and countries. But collaboration technologies don’t just enable employee interaction remotely but also can benefit onsite communications as well. Employees can manage availability and activity through telepresence; they can use group chats to hold impromptu meetings; they can share documents and computer screens to collaborate on projects. All this has given companies the ability to increase collaboration both on and off site, institute more unified business processes, expand knowledge and idea sharing, and in the process, eliminating workplace silos.

Unified communications and collaboration technologies play a major role enabling the infrastructure to organize and optimize intra-enterprise communications in a ways not possible before. UCC technology is essential to business’ efforts to organize people and processes and information around eliminating fragmented, uncoordinated efforts across various functional departments and offices. 

Yes, in-person proximity can foster more creativity and productivity than telecommuting, but that’s not to say work-from-home programs or office-to-office collaboration can’t be successful with the right technologies and processes. Take, for example, the customer service industry. Collaboration technologies can help work-at-home agents engage and chat with sales representatives, tap product and subject matter experts through tools like Microsoft’ (News - Alert) SharePoint, and participate on team calls via video. This type of collaboration improves resolution time and customer satisfaction without necessarily tethering the agent to a desk. This is imperceptible to the customer, and collaboration is not compromised while providing access to a larger skill and talent pool.

The bottom line is while higher productivity through collaboration can best be achieved in person, it is not necessarily dependent on it. Whether employees are in another cube or another continent, companies have to take a global view in order to leverage collaboration technology and get the most out of their workforce.

Spence Mallder is general manager of workforce optimization and CTO at Aspect (News - Alert) (

Edited by Stefania Viscusi