Unified Communications and Green Practices Go Hand-In-Hand
As a Unified Communications (UC) Industry Analyst and full-time teleworker, I don’t know how I let National Telework Week slip by last month without blogging about it. Maybe it’s because 2012 was merely the second year that National Telework Week was observed. But most likely it’s because teleworking is a routine practice for me. Still, teleworking is a big deal. Everyone recognizes the reduced fossil fuel consumption and pollution (3,452 tons of pollutants saved during Telework Week 2012 per Telework Exchange), time savings, work/life balance, and other benefits that teleworking can offer.
Most people would like the flexibility of teleworking at least some of the time. When a WorldatWork Telework Trendlines 2009 survey asked U.S. workers about their interest in working from home, only 21% said they were not at all interested. Survey participants were also asked what portion of their work could be done from home:
- 29% said they could do less than 20%;
- 27% said 20-40%;
- 11% said 40-60%;
- 9% said 60-80%; and
- 24% said 80% or more
While I don’t have insider knowledge of this survey, I’m taking a short leap to assume that a majority of the respondents did not believe they have the appropriate tools to effectively work from home.
UC technology facilitates effective teleworking. Frost & Sullivan defines UC as an integrated set of voice, video and data applications, all of which leverage computer- and telephony-based presence information. In a nutshell, UC is about providing users with ubiquitous access to their communications capabilities – meaning that users can work from nearly anywhere and anytime they need. An important aspect of UC is that telecommuters have access to the same communications tool set at home as they have at work, making it less apparent that they are not in the office.
- Personal call handling features within UC clients or dashboards enable users to route inbound calls to any number, and route outbound calls through the corporate exchange so that only their business extension is visible to the far-end party.
- Rich presence applications enable colleagues located at different locations to determine when is the best time to reach one another, by what means, and when they are not to be disturbed. In effect, rich presence can make workers more reachable regardless of where they are physically located. In addition, rich presence gives supervisors insight into the activities of their teleworking staff members.
- Click-to-communicate from soft clients can empower users to escalate IM interactions to voice or video sessions on the fly in order to share ideas and rich media content, solve problems and move projects forward even though the team members may never meet in person.
- Teleworkers can join training sessions conducted via Web conferencing to ensure they are educated on the latest policies and initiatives. Web conferencing can also provide a secure forum for transferring documents and other content, effectively replacing the less secure “in basket” located in the office.
- Videoconferencing can help distributed co-workers develop tighter bonds and personal relationships with colleagues they may rarely or never see in-person. Visual communications also enhances interactions and makes them more productive through non-verbal cues. Reading body language, gestures and facial expressions can provide valuable insights about a co-worker’s mood or reactions. Users can leverage this information to continuously alter the tone, pace and flow of information as videoconference sessions progress—much like in-person conversations.
For the privilege of teleworking, employers expect their staff to uphold in-office productivity standards when they work from home. My bet is that if more workers were armed with UC tools many more survey participants would have told Telework Trendlines that they could do substantially more of their work from home. When that happens, the environmental savings from teleworking in general and during National Telework Week, though impressive now, will be much more so in the future.
This article was posted on the PGi Green Blog which focuses on how communications technology can help the environment.