I ran across a whitepaper from Jabra recently called “Why Your Remote Workers Hate You”. The title definitely got my attention. As a remote worker myself, I experience both the upsides and downsides of working from my home on a daily basis. Things like lack of commute and the ability to get solid concentration time (awesome) can be offset by the lack of social interaction and face-to-face collaboration (not so great). However, as we’ve covered here on several occasions, remote and home work is only growing as businesses leverage unified communications to support remote workers and lower office space costs. As I recently reported:
Since 2005 the number of employees that work from home multiple days per week has grown by over 80% representing over 3.3 million U.S. employees, or 2.6% of the total workforce. If you look at part-time home workers, that number jumps to 20% - especially on Fridays, it seems :o) Business of all sizes are increasing their work-from-home workforce and for good reasons, one of which is that employees love it.
During the recent Telework Week sponsored by the U.S. Government, average participants saved an average of 4.5 hours per week in commuting time by teleworking 2 days per week. If that was extended for a full year, those workers would save $4,500 in commuting costs and reclaim nearly ten full days of their lives back from sitting in traffic. Not to mention is is great for the environment.
The whitepaper focuses on some of the downsides of remote working both for workers and for the in-office workers that have to interact with them, as well as the risk for businesses that aren’t doing a good job of supporting remote workers. They define the main issue as one of ‘social dislocation’.
Social Dislocation of Remote Workers and How it Impacts Productivity and Corporate Culture
For all the tremendous advances in remote collaboration over the last decade, there are still some things that can only be experienced when you are face-to-face with your colleagues. For example, if you are a home worker on a conference call and your co-workers are in a conference room, you can’t hear the sidebar conversations that are taking place, or there may be multiple sidebars taking place and all you hear is mumbling. Or when someone comes up with a great idea and rushes to the whiteboard to flesh it out, you may not be able see it or hear what the person is saying. Or people completely forget you are on the call and when you speak up it throws everybody for a loop. Your ability to understand nuance be a productive collaborator in these situations can be curtailed and can be frustrating for all involved.
Dig Deeper: Download Why Your Remote Workers Hate You (It’s Not What You Think)
These issues and the rapid move towards remote working can also lead to difficulty in maintaining a cohesive corporate culture. For businesses interested in ensuring their employees work and collaborate at maximum efficiency and that employees all feel part of the team, it is important to do all you can to address social dislocation.
Overcoming The Challenges of Remote Collaboration
To put home workers and and their in-office colleagues in the best position to succeed it is important to first look at the overall experience from the remote worker’s perspective. Understanding challenges from their point of view, like unclear audio, difficulty making out individual voices due to non-directional microphones in conference rooms or jitter in audio or video feeds identifies concerns and puts the business in position to outfit the team with the right devices and infrastructure to overcome collaboration problems.
Looking at the experience from the in-office team’s perspective provides another layer of insight into how to provide the best experience. First it is key to have systems that are easy to use, conference calls that are easy to setup and video conferences that quickly launch. We’ve discussed the increasing number of collaborative or huddle rooms that are appearing in offices due to the move towards open office spaces.
With in-room systems designed to streamline professional quality collaboration like the Google Chromebox and the Microsoft’s Surface Hub (if it ever gets released) and Jabra’s new conference and huddle room speakerphone that has zoom talk microphones that uses software to identify and focus on individual voices, the cost of outfitting these rooms is coming down while significantly improving the experience for both local and remote workers.
When it comes to corporate culture the paper had some good common sense suggestions in addition to ensuring terrific quality. First, encourage video conferencing whenever possible. It really does add another level to the communication. The key is to overcome the shyness of using it. Making it part of the culture that people use video even if it is early in the morning or if a remote worker has just returned from a lunchtime gym workout starts to make it part of corporate culture and improves collaboration while reducing the feeling of social dislocation. They also suggest increased communication with all workers and coming up with reasons to bring remote workers to the corporate office on a consistent basis so that people can build deeper, personal relationships.
It all makes sense to me. What are you doing to improve collaboration and productivity with your extended team? Let us know in the comments section below.