When “phoning it in” is good for business.

Driving remote worker productivity and engagement.

Remote working. Love it or hate it, working from home (WFH) is here to stay.

Sure, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer brought (almost) everyone back on campus when she took the reins in 2013, but there’s little evidence that the move slowed the company’s decline. And for every Yahoo, there’s a Ctrip, the Chinese travel website that measured a 13.5 percent increase in calls made by its remote workers, versus its on-site office workers.

That kind of increase represents almost a full day’s worth of productivity added to the bottom line for every remote worker each week. Maybe that’s why Amazon recently announced its plan to add 5,000 remote customer service positions over the next year.

And while quantifying productivity for many roles won’t be as easy as tracking call volume, it’s a safe bet that your operation could see a similar boost in productivity – and morale – by embracing it.

One thing’s for sure – you’re likely to see a larger pool of qualified applicants for open positions more quickly. When you remove geographic barriers, you can tap into talent that would not consider moving to your city for any number of reasons. Depending on your location and that of applicants, this could result in paying less to fill those positions.

Flexible. Convenient. Sustainable.

Eliminating the regular commute for workers costs employers little but gives team members something of immense value: time.

Trimming 30 minutes to 4 hours of commuting time from workers’ daily routines is essentially a no-cost benefit the organization can leverage to attract and retain talent in urban and rural areas alike. And rest assured, the perceived value of this benefit to workers is extremely high.

Beyond perceived value, WFH arrangements also deliver real savings to workers in the form of reduced commuting expenses. An employee commuting 40 miles roundtrip in a car getting 20 mpg stands to save almost $10 a day in gasoline alone, not to mention wear-and-tear on the car, tolls, and parking fees. Likewise, transit costs are substantially reduced or altogether eliminated.

It’s not only the team members who stand to benefit financially. A well-planned WFH initiative can substantially reduce the need for office space. On those days when remote workers need to be in the office for meetings, they can be accommodated in a much smaller hoteling space than would be acceptable to them if they had to call it “home” five days a week.

And, if you look at the big picture, WFH impacts sustainability as well. Fewer commuters means fewer emissions and less traffic on area roadways.

In fact, a study by the Telework Research Network calculated that if all of the 45 percent of U.S. workers holding at least part-time WFH-compatible jobs worked at home two to four days a week, we could see a reduction in greenhouse gases of up to 51 million tons – the equivalent of taking almost 11 million cars off the road for a year.

Work on your terms.

It’s no surprise that some employers confuse presence with productivity. But as most people can attest, some people who show up to the office every day are not giving it their all.

Whether that’s because of poor work habits or distraction due to work/life balance issues is hard to know, but a well-designed WFH arrangement can greatly reduce the stress of maintaining balance between work and parental or caregiver responsibilities. And reducing negative stress is proven to raise productivity.

Enabling such productivity in the workplace has been dubbed “productive mobility.”

Productive mobility is achieved through technology that enhances the work experience outside of the physical office. Not too long ago, such enabling technology was limited to a laptop computer and a BlackBerry. While that did contribute to better work/life balance, it could also contribute to a degree of disconnectedness between remote workers and their teams or managers.

Today, a well-crafted WFH/productive mobility plan can include a range of technologies that keeps everyone in the organization connected and (sometimes literally) on the same page. At a minimum, you can bet that plan will include cloud-based sharing and collaboration tools, as well as presence functionality that lets everyone on the team know who’s online and available at all times.

At Zones, we’re seeing greater demand for mobility solutions that streamline the transition from working in the office to working from home.

One of the most important areas for consideration is how people communicate. If remote workers can conduct their day-to-day interactions in ways that are similar to how it’s done in the office, everyone benefits. If face-to-face meetings are essential, a high-quality videoconferencing solution may be what you need to maintain interpersonal connections.

Our Mobility and Unified Communications teams are experts at helping businesses develop robust solutions that marry hardware, software, security protocols, and the cloud to enable dispersed workers to collaborate effectively, wherever they need to be.

Sparking greater collaboration.

Cisco is doing an excellent job of facilitating WFH initiatives – and collaboration in general – with its enterprise-grade on-premises, cloud, and hybrid collaboration tools. The company’s Business Edition platforms provide end-to-end unified communications capabilities including voice, video, conferencing, messaging, instant messaging, and presence.

To extend the value of on-premises unified communications and collaboration investments, many organizations are turning to Zones and Cisco Spark Hybrid Services. Cisco Spark Hybrid Services connect what you have on-premises with Cisco Spark in the cloud. This gives businesses even greater collaboration capabilities, along with consistent, unified end-user and administrator experiences.

With Cisco Spark Hybrid Services in place, all your users – remote and on-site – get a simple, secure space to get things done from anywhere they work. Using virtually any device, teams can activate the Spark app to screen share, white board, and create dedicated spaces to keep the conversation moving forward, regardless of where they are.

Similarly, Microsoft’s Skype for Business delivers enhanced collaboration and powerful video-conferencing capabilities that can radically boost engagement among remote workers.

Plan for productivity.

Of course, no discussion about WFH-optimized infrastructure would be complete without addressing the devices that workers will actually use. While most current desktops, notebooks, and tablets have the connectivity, processing power, and memory necessary to work remotely, you’d be wise to consider the latest models if you want to access every available feature of today’s collaboration solutions.

In a Windows environment, that means stepping up to Windows 10 devices equipped with Intel® 7th Generation Core processors. The reason for moving to 7th Generation – or “Kaby Lake” processors – is twofold.

First, Microsoft will end extended support for Windows 7 in July 2020; the less ubiquitous Windows 8.1 will see extended support until 2023. Second, while 6th Generation Intel Core Processors will run Windows 10, 7th-Generation-equipped devices won’t run Windows 7 or 8.1. That means you risk either OS or device obsolescence in the not too distant future if you continue to invest in 6th Generation processors.

If you’re running Office 365 with OS X devices, you should be in good shape for the foreseeable future.

Out with the old. In with Zones.

As in so many aspects of life today, technology continues to make the old way of doing things obsolete. And while face-to-face communication will continue to provide particular nuance to business relationships, the benefits of remote work – economic, personal, and societal – are becoming too compelling to ignore.

If you’re thinking about implementing a WFH initiative within your organization, let us know. We’re ready to put together a team of IT professionals who can evaluate your existing infrastructure. We’ll guide you through the process of deploying a productive solution that keeps your people working effectively and efficiently – no matter where they may be.

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This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Solutions by Zones magazine. View online