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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Teleworking makes productivity possible anywhere, anytime

Teleworking has developed into one of corporate America’s greatest assets and biggest fears at the same time. Giving employees access to work from anywhere at anytime can be unsettling to some managers who want to stay in the loop and under control. But have no fear: remote workforces and teleworking, when implemented correctly, have the ability to empower your employees and increase your bottom line with minimal setup time and investment.

First, let’s be clear: “teleworking” and “telecommuting” are not exactly the same thing. Telecommuting specifically involves a company’s allowing employees to do their jobs from home for any amount of time; teleworking, however, extends to allowing workers to conduct business from any remote location, whether it is in their home, at the airport, or in a client’s office before a meeting. Developing a telework strategy for your business involves giving your employees the tools they need to maximize productivity regardless of their location, and thanks to advances in our field, that extends beyond the traditional company laptop and cell phone.

There are a number of key technologies that have enabled telework to become a successful strategy for many businesses. A VPN (virtual private network) allows remote users access to company files and databases through an Internet connection, making any needed information instantly available. Integrated communication devices such as videoconferencing giant Tandberg’s Movi enable workers to hold face-to-face video chats with supervisors and clients, increasing productivity by making communication more natural and allowing for a hands-on managerial approach to employees working remotely. Teleworking strategies increase productivity by creating work opportunities during down time, such as sitting in the airport or waiting for an off-site meeting to begin. It also makes all online files immediately available to any remote worker, so coming to a meeting unprepared will never occur. And studies have shown that being able to work remotely means working more often: teleworking employees are more productive than their in-office-only counterparts because they’re more likely to log on past regular business hours.

Although the immediate benefits of a telework strategy are clear, there are also ways that teleworking can save your business. The American Red Cross estimates that as many as 40% of small businesses who experience a disaster, such as a fire or a tornado, never reopen; by enabling your employees to continue working in other locations while you focus on rebuilding, however, greatly increases your company’s likelihood of survival during a difficult time. Also, teleworking protects your most valuable asset of all: your employees. As winter approaches, inclement weather can temporarily shut down company operations, create a perilous commute for workers, and even strand employees during business travel. With a successful telework program in place, employees can continue to work regardless of their location and whether your office is open for business.

The final piece of the telework puzzle involves what else but investment. But you may be surprised to find that the cost to create a remote workforce is about equal to the costs associated with hiring and providing in-office technology for one entry-level staff member. VPN hosting rates are typically cheaper than traditional private networks because they can be outsourced, and once the initial equipment investment is made, there are little if any additional costs associated with implementation.

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