Enterprise Communications

Unifying an Approach for Today's Growing Distributed Workforce

By Special Guest
Eric Hanson, VP of product marketing at Fuze
  |  January 16, 2017

According to a Global Workplace Analytics study, 3.7 million employees now work remotely at least half the time. This number is expected to grow in the coming years as employers realize the financial and operational benefits of remote work. Evolving workplace realities require both a paradigm shift and new resources. It’s becoming business critical for companies to invest in the right technology to support a distributed team’s ability to connect, collaborate, and engage.

Above all, organizations need to make it easy for people to work remotely by providing mobile employees with technology that is up to par with their personal preferences. Don’t stress over finding a one-size-fits-all approach. Technology should be flexible and adaptable to the needs of individual employees. Overall, they should have the tools to connect with the organization no matter where they punch in.

Bringing the Perks of In-office Experiences to the Remote Worker

Without a physical office space, remote workers can feel left out of the social aspects of traditional workplaces. Technology can help fill the gap and make the office water cooler available to everyone, allowing them to develop a level of rapport previously only possible when working side by side. Creating an environment in which workers can get to know one another on a more personal level helps establish a level of trust and camaraderie essential for delivering projects on tight deadlines, building company culture regardless of location, recruiting, engaging, and retaining employees.

Communications tools that behave like social media and echo experiences associated with personal communications devices can make conversations informal and encourage stronger bonds between distributed employees. Solutions that emulate in-office behaviors and support real-time collaboration make remote work more engaging and productive. Videoconferencing should be encouraged whenever possible to make project interaction more natural. Chat also helps workers throw ideas around much like they would exchange thoughts over the cubicle. When the time is right, a more formal face-to-face meeting with local and remote co-workers can be used to drive consensus and take action. These options help prevent employees from having to postpone or avoid regular interactions, in turn building stronger teams and a more comprehensive work product.

Finding a Balance Between Communication Methods

According to CNBC, 67 percent of meetings are considered unproductive in large part because participants don’t feel truly present, a feeling that can be exacerbated when working remotely. Those who regularly dial in from outside the office crave experiences that draw them into the discussion. Given that 90 percent of communication is non-verbal, videoconferencing helps both remote and in-office employees feel more engaged and accountable to the conversation. 

Easy-to-use communication tools also prevent employees from participating in shadow IT, or rather, circumventing IT-approved software and reverting to tools to which they are more accustomed. One customer described it very simply: “If the product isn’t usable, our employees simply won’t adopt it and will find something else that meets their standards.” This opens the door for security issues and other complexities. Additionally, employees without the proper communication tools may often find themselves wasting valuable time using unbundled or free services with poor sound or video quality.

Employees need the ability to transition effortlessly from one communication method to another on a single platform that can combine video, voice, and chat applications. Providing this comprehensive technology also de-incentivizes employees from seeking alternate, non-sanctioned tools. Furthermore, this type of fluidity is an absolute imperative for communication to truly service today’s modern workforce – a workforce that demands friction-free experiences. While a chat tool may be the best fit for a quick question, videoconferencing is more suitable for more in-depth planning conversations and brainstorms that can benefit from visual communication.

Technology also can help alleviate the everyday pressures of managing overlapping calls, meeting tight deadlines, and needing to be in two places at once. Anyone familiar with the always-on work environment can relate to these all-too-common factors that can lead to stress and burnout. Technology can also give little boosts throughout the workday. For example, rich collaboration tools including group chat can help increase productivity through informal project interaction while videoconferencing can easily replace in-person meetings where appropriate to more effectively review progress and drive decisions. It’s all about helping employees manage their time to create balance, effectively communicate, and help make their day a bit more stress-free and productive.

Connecting Remote Workers with the Right Technology

One-click connections remove the burden of isolation felt by many remote workers. They can also break down the figurative office walls, freeing them up to focus on work worth doing. Creating an environment of friction-free communication and fluid connectivity is key to making a work anywhere environment successful. It also helps prevent mobile employees from detaching from their teams, feeling distant from the organization, and becoming disengaged overall.

Remote work isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, it’s picking up momentum as businesses realize the productivity improvements that coincide with hiring talent where talent lives, as well as accommodating employees’ work preferences. It’s time to give them the tools they need to succeed.

Eric Hanson is vice president of product marketing at Fuze.

Edited by Alicia Young