Infographic: Staying Connected the Smart Way

Since 1995 (back when Google was a mere glint in Larry and Sergey’s eyes) there’s been a fourfold increase in the number of Americans working remotely. And it’s no coincidence that this dramatic rise has happened in step with technological advances such as the widespread rollout of broadband, mobile, and the cloud. The infographic below shows how most managers (two thirds of those surveyed) agreed that remote employees were more productive, and there’s a very good reason why that makes sense. It all comes down to empowerment.

And although empowerment has become a bit of an overused buzzword, it is very appropriate in this context, because most people like to think that they have some sort of say in how they spend their time. So paradoxically, the more time and effort you spend in controlling your employees’ every move (the out-dated “punch card” system which recently landed companies like Sports Direct into such controversy) the more unhappy — and less productive — they get. Trust them to organize their own time and accomplish the tasks you set in whatever way they judge best, and you instil a sense of pride and ownership that is actually much healthier for your bottom line as well as your workplace culture. Hence the fact that 80% of remote workers report higher morale and lower absenteeism. When you have the choice to work for yourself and you love what you do, you tend to do it more often. The fact I’m happily writing this on a bank holiday with a freshly brewed cup of coffee at my elbow is a case in point.

Keeping communications channels open is key to making the remote working proposition work, and this day and age there is no shortage of tools and devices — ranging from free to state-of-the-art conference robots — available to choose from. What mix is right for you and your employer (bearing in mind that in this day and age those two might be one and the same) will vary and if you’re anything like me you’ll experiment with a variety of solutions before landing on the ones that work best.

Tech Trends Remote Working Conference Robot
Telepresence Robot from Double Robotics

Does that mean that face-to-face interactions are a thing of the past? With Virtual Reality technologies advancing at vertiginous speed, there is talk that it will cause dramatic cutbacks in the need for business travel, as we’ll be able to get the same sense of presence and interaction using, for example, a Mixed Reality device such as the HoloLens.

I for one believe that VR/AR/MR will soon become an important and even dominant element of that communications mix, but that there will always be a value to actually meeting someone, even if you’ve known them for a long time. I work with clients, suppliers and editors based all over the world, and many of those I have close dealings with on a weekly and even daily basis are people I’ve never physically been in the same room with. But whenever I’m in their town –as happened recently during a trip to New York — I make a point of reaching out, as nothing beats grabbing lunch together and shaking someone’s hand. The fact is that this flexible — and smarter — way of working makes those interactions count. When you own your own time and you don’t take being in the same room as your co-workers for granted, every interaction has a greater sense of purpose, I find.

If your workplace is still the kind of environment where people have endless long meetings with very little point except making the working day tick past, chances are you won’t be attracting the best young talent to join you. 68% of millennial job seekers rate remote working as something that substantially increases their interest in an employer. Recruiters, take note.

Smart Office Solutions graphic

Smart Office Solutions from Nucleus

Originally published at Alice Bonasio.