Telecommuting solutions have come a long way since the concept was first founded.
Desk phones, desktops, and dial-up have gone the way of the dinosaur and work takes place anytime and virtually anywhere.
Of course, unlike the dinosaurs, technology continues to evolve and what was standard five years ago is probably considered archaic today. There are some essential technologies to consider when designing your company’s telecommuting program and, more importantly, there are some critical policies which go hand in hand with that tech.
Our team at Refined Data would be more than happy to answer any questions around any of this work list and get you on track.
1) The first thing to consider is how is your workforce going to connect?
It’s not as simple as it sounds. High-speed Internet access is plentiful and so are mobile hot spots or the ability to tether through a mobile phone, but what about security?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) should be on the top of everyone’s telecommuting technology work list. They are inexpensive, quick to set up and take the security headache out of the mix.
For more robust security consider a Two-Factor Authentication System. A single factor authentication requires just a username and password. A Two-Factor Authentication System requires the input of a second password or numeric key generated by a token the user carries with them or in the form of a USB key. It is generated by an algorithm tied to the user from a synchronized server.
It’s also recommended your teams all have access to robust and fast Internet. Video and audio streaming eat up bandwidth quickly when the number of participants grows, even when managed.
2) What are you going to connect with?
Everyone has their own preferences: iPhone, Androids, laptops, tablets, even desktops. Depending on your IT department’s security protocols you may be limited to specific devices or you may have to have each BYOD assessed and approved for telecommuting.
3) Where are they going to connect?
Regardless of where they are physically, collaboration takes place virtually. A conference call, for example, is a collaboration between people aurally but isn’t as rich an experience as a video conference call with document and screen sharing or digital whiteboarding.
Having a hosting service with the appropriate applications to facilitate video and sharing is a must. It takes the pressure off your IT department and puts it in the hands of those who work with this technology every day.
4) How are they going to share?
The Cloud has become synonymous with sharing and while there were early concerns about security, those roadblocks have been cleared. Documents shared in Cloud are accessible to the right people when they need them. Applications like Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 have created robust, secure and accessible workspaces where document sharing is fast and easy.
5) Access only what you need when you need it.
A Desktop Virtualization Client mirrors desktop sessions on a server and presents results to participants’ PCs or other devices.
They’re useful because they trim down the data stream and make remote access faster.
6) VOIP / IP Telephony System:
There are many flavours of VoIP on the market. Some like Skype allow video conferencing but don’t manage bandwidth well so the video can be choppy and the audio rough. Vantage Point is a platform originally designed for virtual classrooms which are also available for telecommuting applications. It manages bandwidth to ensure optimum video quality with almost no lag.
7) Battery Boosters.
There’s nothing worse that realizing your battery is dying just as that all important conference is coming up. There are an array of battery boosters available for mobile devices and it’s a good idea to invest in a spare battery for your laptop or make sure you always carry your charger with you.
8) Headsets, microphones, and headphones.
The built-in speakers and microphones on mobile devices and laptops are barely adequate to sneak in a YouTube video, let alone collaborate at a high level with colleagues for work. It’s highly recommended that each user invests in a quality microphone – either USB or analog split pin – along with a quality pair of headphones or ear buds, depending on their preference. There are also enterprise quality headsets available, most often used in Customer Call Centres which may be an option. They are more expensive and usually require being charged up, however.
Either way, look for a microphone with a mute button! There’s nothing more annoying than five colleagues all breathing into the microphone at the same time and saying nothing.
9) Web-enabled CRM and ERP applications:
Having the latest supply chain data and customer contact records at hand during conferencing is critical.
10) Interactive Digital Whiteboard:
While telecommuting means people are working remotely, there’s often someone or a group of people at an office, in a meeting room somewhere hosting the meeting. Having a large 1080p screen which is hooked into a computer with a quality microphone is a big plus. Also, having an Interactive Digital Whiteboard can also be a useful tool when sketching out proposed processes or ideas.
While a webcam can capture a regular board, a digital board allows for two-way interactivity which combines the resolution of a display with the freedom of a dry-erase surface.