This is a guest post by Amanda Green.
The irony of the term “information superhighway” is in how it’s making real highways obsolete.
For quite a few years now, workers have become less office-dependent, gaining freedom in where and how they can work.
It has benefited them and their employers in many ways, saving money and time in everything from office overhead to commuting costs.
But many supervisors are still unwilling to have staff out of sight and out of earshot. The various reservations they have are all but myths.
How Can I Fix Their Problems?
Perhaps the most legitimate concern is that computer issues can’t be easily dealt with for off-site staff.
The whole heart of effective telecommunication beats with computers. If a worker’s computer is not performing the way it should, he or she is left with little opportunity to be productive.
Now what? All the productivity saved by letting the worker operate off-site is now in peril, all because he or she can’t figure out a software problem.
In the earliest days of telecommuting, that fretting would be justified. But like all technology, it has pushed past this disconnect.
In the last few years, remote IT support has even made it possible for a technician hundreds of miles away to access an employee’s computer and conduct a multitude of tasks, such as software updates and virus removal. This type of support software allows you to use a remote workstation to access customer’s computers so that you can solve problems quickly, or to demonstrate how they can fix these programs in the future.
How Do I Know They’re Working?
That’s the most obvious concern. Are my employees awake and being productive?
Fortunately, it’s easy to track the answer. Microsoft Lync and other communication networks highlight each person’s status; if their mouse or keyboard has been touched in the last five minutes, the person shows as active.
Most of these systems also incorporate instant messaging, voice-over-internet telephone functions, and file-sharing as well. Those components make the virtual office even more functional.
How Can They Get To Their Stuff?
Somewhere in many employers’ minds remains an image of the office worker who dutifully totes a shiny briefcase to and from the house each day, completing some work in the evenings after a slice of apple pie.
These days, electronic files are the norm, but some supervisors can’t seem to snap that 1958 scene from their minds.
That’s not to say that everything is always at arm’s length, as in Ward Cleaver’s attache. Access to files is a challenge. Nobody wants to spend the entire day emailing attachments to workers who should be at an adjacent desk.
But secure cloud storage and other networking methods have made file transfer as easy as it is in the office with a shared server.
How Can We Communicate?
Nobody wants a semi-square callous on the ear from an entire day on the phone with telecommuting workers.
But the aforementioned Lync, as well as a veritable army of other remote conferencing systems, make it simple and seamless to video conference or chat with workers anywhere. Text messaging and social media simplify mobile contact as well.
Remote workers are not without their headaches. Their home DSL can fail while office-based co-workers can remain online. Some telecommuters allow too many distractions to endure.
But the larger barriers have been breached with technology, and perhaps most importantly, the ability to service and repair that technology ensures that the system remains strong.