11/18/2013 07:08 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Teleworking and Technology: Why We Can Get a Land Rover on Mars But Can't Get IM on Our Desktops

In a previous blog, I spoke about some teleworking results from WorldatWork's recently published Survey on Workplace Flexibility. This blog serves as a "part 2" discussing technology that enables teleworkers to work effectively and why some still are in the dark ages about using them. We asked in our survey what technologies are offered through their employers (see pages 28 and 29 for more on this.) When looking at these numbers below, ask yourself, are these numbers good or are they rather low - given the vast amount of technology that is available to us.

  • Virtual private network 20%
  • Communication and collaboration software 18%
  • Telephone systems 18%
  • Instant messaging 16%
  • Shared desktops 9%
  • Time and attendance software 7%
  • Project management software 2%
  • Virtual whiteboards 2%
One of the things that I talk a lot about when asked about what makes for a successful teleworking arrangement is to create as seamless as possible an environment where managers, coworkers and customers don't realize that you are working virtually. But what I surmise from the survey results above is that organizations and managers and even teleworkers themselves do not know all that is available to create that kind of atmosphere. So awhile back when I was asked by a reporter about some of the technology that is available for a virtual working environment I went out and searched since I know that I was probably behind in the latest and greatest. And I'm fairly confident that I didn't touch on all things that are available. I invite you to comment at the end of this blog if you know of others that I've not mentioned here. Hardware:
  • Basic desktop or laptop computers with access to the internet - including wireless.
  • Tablets and mobile devices also have the capability of "connecting" employees to the office.
  • Direct connect via phone. Either through a VPN that enables you to transfer your phone to your final destination or simply transferring your calls to your home or cell phone.
  • VPN software using secure networks accessing organizations systems. Allows the employees to access all of their applications as though they are still in the "physical" office.
  • Webmail - Many organizations have their own "webmail" access with apps to coordinate with tablet and mobile devices. This allows access to emails without access to other systems within the organization and provides security for other systems.
  • Instant Messaging (IM) - for connecting to co-workers
  • Video blogging especially helpful in situations where employees are collaborating across departments or offices.
  • Private social networks for internal staff are also popular. Yammer, for example, is designed for company collaboration, file sharing, and knowledge exchange and team efficiency.
  • In the cloud technology (helpful for call centers that have global dispersed or at-home workforce) and could also help with business continuity.
  • Collaboration tools with desktop, tablet & mobile enabled technology. They allow for virtual meetings, telepresence, sharing notes, access content and integrate input from remote team members during meetings.
  1. Cisco Webex - web conferencing combines file and presentation sharing with voice, HD video and meeting spaces
  2. Citrix GoToMeetings - An online meeting, desktop sharing, and video conferencing software that enables the user to meet with other computer users, customers, clients or colleagues via the Internet in real time.
  3. Fuzebox - meetings and video conferencing solutions compatible with any device.
  4. Google hangout - a free video chat. Enables both one-on-one chats and group chats. Focuses more on "face-to-face-to-face" group interaction as opposed to one-on-one video chats, and seamlessly switches the focus to the person currently chatting. I've heard of some people that keep their hangouts open even if there is not a meeting occurring just so they can attempt to create that spontaneity with their team members.
  5. Huddle is a comprehensive platform for collaborating on content in the cloud
  6. CoMindWork - Consolidates project tasks, documents and ideas in one secure workspace. Share with team members and clients
  7. Some other names (and they keep popping up everywhere, it's hard to keep up) are Omnijoin, Meetingburner, Anymeeting

The lists go on and on. It quite impressive really, but I don't think we are availing ourselves of all that is out there and capable of creating that seamless environment we strive for. Try some of these out and invite your IT folks to bring their expertise to the table when creating your own virtual work environment. In the meantime, enjoy Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory showing in his own typical way how technology can simulate a virtual presence. Bazinga!