The Many Benefits of Remote Office Collaboration Software
Telecommuting can significantly benefit both employees and employers.
Remote office collaboration software is a great way to save money while keeping your employees happy and reducing the negative impact of commuting on the environment. If you think about it, a large number of employees in almost every office don't really have to be physically present in an office. Provided they can communicate with people in ways that are similar to what would take place in a normal office setting, many employees can work productively from home.
Employers historically have been reluctant to have employees telecommute because of perceived communication issues and difficulty in managing employee performance. But with the advent of high-speed Internet connections and remote office collaboration software, this concern is becoming less and less relevant.
Improving On-Demand Communications
The main idea behind remote office collaboration software is to allow offsite employees to communicate with each other much like they would face to face or in a meeting, with the only difference being that they are not physically there. Of course, there is the ubiquitous email, instant messaging, and calendaring software that lets geographically separated employees interact with each other, and there are means for files to be shared through company networks. But what has been missing in many situations is an on-demand way for managers and co-workers to actually see remote employees as well as the projects that they are working on. With remote office collaboration software, employees can communicate with each other through their computers using web cameras, headsets, and special software. Often, there is a way to see another person's computer screen and even sketch on a group whiteboard. Some products also include integrated calendaring and time-clock functions.
Remote office software typically have logs that record when the employee is using the computer and which applications are being used while the collaboration software is running. For managers, monitoring employees with remote collaboration software alleviates the concern that offsite employees are wasting time playing video games or watching TV when they should be working. Therefore, a good remote office collaboration solution has features to view the person via a webcam and even see the computer desktop screen in real time.
Remote office collaboration software is usually built around a client/server model. That is, you have two components: the server software that runs on a special server computer and the client software that runs on every employee's machine. The clients communicate to the server software over an Internet connection. The server maintains shared data such as connection logs and user passwords. The client software generates and receives the audio/video feeds and talks to the server when it needs to access shared information. For example, when a person wants to see someone else, the client has to ask the server who is currently available to talk to.
The Benefits of a Home Office
Given the global nature of companies and economies, many companies have geographically dispersed workers, and in these situations, remote office collaboration software can be extremely important. But many companies with traditional in-office workforces can benefit significantly by giving employees the opportunity to work from home. And the benefits are not just for the employee. A traditional office setting has some costly negative qualities that can be alleviated by having people work from home. In other words, a company can save money in more ways than just by reducing the size of office space (or postponing the need to add existing office space).
The most significant cost to both employees and employers is stress, and allowing employees to work from home can make a huge difference in this regard. Too much stress makes employees ill. When employees are ill they miss work, and this affects your company's productivity. Workplace stress is not the only problem. Many employees experience high levels of stress on the way to and from work as they battle rush-hour traffic. On top of this, there is the potential cost of the increased likelihood of traffic accidents caused by a daily commute.
Illnesses are spread in public places, particularly in office settings, and are most commonly spread by hand-to-hand contact. Think about how many hands you shake or doorknobs and other objects you touch in the course of a day at your office. When employees are less exposed to germs, they stay healthier and take less sick leave.
Remote office collaboration software lets companies provide all the benefits of a traditional office environment without the aforementioned problems. Studies show that employees are much happier when they are allowed to work from home because a familiar environment helps to reduce the stress associated with work. Happier, healthier employees don't miss as much work. And when employees don't have to commute to work, stress levels are reduced even further (and let's not forget about the reduced air pollution), money is saved because less gas is needed and car wear is reduced, the chances of an accident are reduced because there is less driving, and the extra time can be spent with family and otherwise enjoying life.
Providing a telecommuting option can help your company attract quality talent. Since employees tend to prefer working from home, offering this option is a plus. Certain employees—stay-at-home parents, for example—might even be willing to work for less pay if they can work from home. When employees telecommute, it is far easier hiring from a much larger geographical area. You can now hire employees from other cities, states, or even other countries.
Telecommuting can also limit job turnover. Instead of an employee having to resign due to a spouse getting a job in another city, that employee can move away and work from home. Employees who need to stay at home because of a disability or long-term illness or because they must care for a family member can possibly work at least part-time at home.
In a traditional office environment, when workers need to attend to a personal matter, they often take an entire day off, but when allowed to work from home, employees are more likely to work the same hours they would at the office while dealing with personal matters that would have otherwise kept them away from work.
Another little-considered yet important benefit of having employees work from home is that this distributive office environment adds resiliency to your workforce. In other words, when your company is composed of tiny micro-offices spread out over a large area, your company is less vulnerable to power outages and other natural disasters.
The Downsides Are Minor
Of course, there are drawbacks to employees working offsite. Many people miss the direct human contact they are accustomed to from a traditional office setting. Managers see problems with communicating with their employees and managing their performance (although the right remote office collaboration software can significantly mitigate this).
And as far as remote office collaboration software goes, there are bandwidth limitations as the current software offerings are rather bandwidth-hungry. Until the speed of the Internet improves, this sort of software would dramatically impact the performance of the Internet if everyone started using it at once. Fortunately, the ability to massively improve the performance of the Internet exists now, requiring only the appropriate resources to make it happen.
Despite the limitations, remote office collaboration software is the future of the working environment. Though not perfect, employers can take advantage of this technology right away to save money and improve productivity with select employees and in some cases their entire staff. At the very least, employers can make a start by allowing eligible employees to work at least one day a week.
The benefits might amaze you.
CyberMatrix Corporation Inc is the developer of the CyberMatrix Office collaboration software as well as other scheduling and time management software. For more information, visit the CyberMatrix Web site or call 888.664.0383.