Posted: June 19, 2009
Making the most of your remote workforce
Tips to help you start a telework program or enhance the one you haveBy Michael Clark
Due to its ability to cut business costs, working remotely has revolutionized what it means to “go into the office.” The digital era has mobilized workers, enabling them to connect and collaborate from nearly any location.
For individuals, the ability to telework allows greater flexibility and improved quality of life. For businesses, teleworking arrangements provide access to a greater talent pool and cost savings, among other benefits.
If your business is considering a teleworking program or would like to enhance a current remote-working strategy, take a few minutes to learn about the following “out of office” technology tips and tools:
Consider implementing a unified communications solution, which integrates experiences once associated with the telephone, such as voicemail and conferencing, into documents, spreadsheets, e-mail, instant messaging and calendars.
Denver-based nonprofit Mercy Housing, with eight major office locations throughout the U.S., recently partnered with Boulder-based technology consultant PEI to deploy a unified communications solution.
Mercy Housing employees now are taking advantage of presence technology, which reveals the best way to reach an individual at any given moment. Also, by standardizing on the unified communications platform, Mercy Housing has a more secure and manageable instant messaging solution.
Furthermore, to reduce executive travel, PEI helped Mercy Housing supplement its unified communications platform with a Microsoft RoundTable, an audio and video communications device with a built-in 360-degree camera. Now, for their monthly executive meetings, Mercy Housing executives still experience the richness of face-to-face interactions, via the roundtable camera, without incurring hefty airfare and lodging expenses.
Many businesses hold the rights to software for unified communications solutions and don’t even know it. Before purchasing any software, review your existing technology agreements to assess which components of a solution you already own.
If your employees depend on smartphones to remain productive while working remotely, integrating their wireless devices with your existing corporate network can reap big benefits. Employees will enjoy greater functionality and your business can cut costs by extending the benefits of existing IT investments.
For example, if your business runs a Windows operating system, it can achieve better interoperability from Windows Mobile-powered handheld devices. Employees can easily access documents and e-mail from their smartphones, and compatible technologies make the transition from desktop machine to handheld device that much smoother. Moreover, compatible technologies also will help your IT staff save time when synching and connecting devices with servers and databases.
Servers aren’t just tools for running software applications. They’re actually powerful collaboration channels and deliver real business value to organizations that want to enable employees to work remotely.
If your company has employees in numerous locations, you can install servers that let workers securely store, share and access documents, e-mail and calendars from anywhere. New server technology even includes features like document “check-out,” which treats documents like library books that can only be edited by one employee at a time, allowing for greater version control.
Encryption for protection
When your business mobilizes its workers and outfits them with mobile computing devices, the threat of lost or stolen data increases significantly. In fact, Microsoft’s recent Security Intelligence Report indicates that 50 percent of recently reported security breaches involving data loss have been attributed to stolen and lost equipment.
Before a corporate laptop is lost or stolen, one of the best ways to avert a security breach is to install or activate encryption software. Certain encryption technologies, like Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption, come already installed on newer operating systems and make all data on a computer indecipherable to unauthorized users who try to access the hard drive.
Give your company a competitive edge: Make the most of technologies that support remote working.
Michael Clark is regional general manager for Microsoft's Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) group in Denver. Go here for a free guide to starting a remote working program, technology tips and other valuable information.