How VoIP can Help Keep Businesses with Remote Workers Connected and Efficient
March 07, 2013
By Rachel Ramsey
, TMCnet Web Editor
Telecommuting has been a hot topic in the industry following Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s move to reverse the technology-enabled trend of working remotely. However, a Labor Bureau study found that about 15 percent of U.S. employees work remotely and the flexibility that comes with it seems to boost productivity, decrease absenteeism and increase retention.
Mayer’s decision has sparked a debate on whether or not telecommuting is beneficial to businesses. Do employee flexibility and satisfaction outweigh productivity and performance? From arguments at each end of the spectrum, it seems the two do not go hand-in-hand. But with the right communication system they can.
To Work Remotely or To Not Work Remotely?
As always, there are two sides to the story. Working remotely may offer flexibility and therefore improve employee satisfaction, but is it the best decision for a business? Mayer’s move to bring remote workers back into the office was largely fueled by day-to-day interactions experienced from being in a physical office, which can help productivity, employee relations and creativity.
"Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work at home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with being physically together,” Mayer stated in a memo.
While the idea of telecommuting may seem like a great idea – you don’t have to commute, endure traffic or get dressed for an office environment – there are some definitive cons to the trend. It takes a lot more discipline for employees to be as productive at home as they would in an office.
Ben Waber, president and CEO of Sociometric Solutions, a consulting firm, says telecommuting more than once a week can lead to dips in performance. Research shows that employees who collaborate with others perform better when they have frequent face time.
Working from home also means employees are not using a company’s network and data backup system, which can mean putting critical and sensitive information at risk. Remote employees say dealing with IT issues is one of the most difficult aspects of working from home.
However, by 2016, the number of regular telecommuters in the U.S. is expected to reach 4.9 million. Employees and employers agree that telecommuting is mutually beneficial – 75 percent of business decision makers notice happier employees, 37 percent report less absenteeism and 48 percent of remote workers say they are less stressed.
Yahoo is not alone in its stance on telecommuting – Best Buy is following Mayer’s lead by taking a look at its employees working from home. The electronics retailer is not eliminating telecommuting for its corporate employees outright, it is just ending its “results-oriented environment policy.” Best Buy (News - Alert) just wants employees to discuss with their managers whether they should continue their at-home arrangement.
There’s no right or wrong policy when it comes to telecommuting. When deciding whether or not to allow employees to work remotely, businesses need to consider their individual business goals, employee opinions and what kind of environment they want to create.
The Key to Effective Telecommuting
Despite the debate over whether or not telecommuting is right for a business, thanks to technology innovations, mobile devices and Internet connectivity, remote working today is easier and more effective than ever. The key to ensuring a productive, happy and effective workforce is communication.
Business VoIP systems connect remote workers and companies, helping to improve communication and, therefore, productivity. Not only do business VoIP providers offer unlimited nationwide calling, allowing workers to communicate no matter where they are located in the country, but they also offer features that remote workers can benefit from and utilize, such as IP video conferencing. Another feature VoIP enables is IP faxing, which can send faxes directly into any designated e-mail inbox and work with regular fax machines. IP faxing allows a company to be receptive to customers or peers who need to send and receive faxes, while allowing the remote worker to simplify their work system to stay connected.
A prominent element of today’s workforce is the mobile device. Bring your own device (BYOD) continues to increase among workers and companies, and it doesn’t have to just involve those in physical offices. Many providers offer VoIP apps for iPhones, Androids, iPods and tablets.
If you’re interested in adopting a VoIP system for your business, check out GetVoIP.com (News - Alert), a single resource for everything related to VoIP. It provides a directory of providers with a comparison guide, reviews and ratings, hands-on support, industry news and any other information relevant to making an informed decision about selecting a VoIP provider.
Edited by Rich Steeves