6 Tools for Teleworking: Maximizing Technology with Virtual Offices
Companies large and small are re-evaluating teleworking and how they can arm their employees with the tools needed to succeed while working from home.
My company, AquaPR, embraces teleworking from the executive level down and relies on a host of technologies including instant messaging and online document collaboration to keep the team productive and connected.
The option to telework allows employees the flexibility to balance work and their personal lives without ever having to leave their home office. Our mix of teleworking along with in-person team meetings and collaboration provides a great stability. I have found one of the keys to my companys teleworking success is the ability to maximize todays technology to stay connected through virtual offices.
1. Online Document Collaboration
There are numerous online document collaboration tools but Google.com offers a free service that I have found to be quite effective. The Google.com application known as Google Docs, allows users to upload, create, export and share files, spreadsheets, images and presentations. Google Docs offers labels and folders to help organize numerous files, which is important with various clients. The browser based application not only allows you to instantly share items with co-workers, you can access your own files from any location. Google Docs also allows simultaneous viewing and editing of the same file. I consider online document collaboration to be one of the most important aspects to successful teleworking.
2. PDAs and BlackBerries
Most teleworkers rely on their PDAs/BlackBerries as their primary office phone. The mobility allows us to easily stay in touch regardless of our location. The data capabilities on PDAs and Blackberries give us the option to work away from our home offices without worrying about missing important emails or urgent messages. The newer technology of voice and data capable cell phones, gives the freedom to run errands and take breaks without feeling confined to our computer or desk.
For early adopters, the new Google phones already have all the Google applications loaded for easy access to Docs and Calendar.
3. zBoost Cell Phone Signal Booster
One major challenge for teleworkers is reliable in-door cell phone signal. I use a zBoost cell phone signal booster to avoid any dropped or missed calls. With units for the car, home, office and travel, zBoost increases signal and speed for voice and data transmission, aircards and EDGE and 3G technologies. I am free to use my cell phones wherever I go without the fear or agitation of not getting calls, emails, text messages or picture messages. zBoost can be found online through many etail stores or direct at www.Wi-Ex.com.
4. Instant Messaging
Instant messaging is one of the key ways that I stay connected to co-workers throughout the workday. IMs allow us to send notes and thoughts during conference calls with clients, ask a quick question or promptly send Web site links. Instant messaging also allows users to set a status of their current activity to let people know whether they are busy or available to talk. If someone is currently busy or away from their desk, instant messages will remain on the recipients computer screen like a digital post-it.
5. Shared Calendars
People often shy away from sharing both personal and business calendars with co-workers but it is very useful when teleworking. By allowing co-workers to view your entire schedule, there is never any concern of not being able to locate or contact someone; a typical fear of companies hesitant to telework. My company often shares doctor appointments, childrens schedules and requested time off, as well as, meetings and conference calls. In traditional work settings, it is common for only the managers to know of their staffs current activities and absences. As teleworkers, it is important to be a team rather than a hierarchy and shared calendars allow everyone to stay within the same loop.
6. Social Networking Web Sites
A common objection to teleworking is the elimination of personalities and the day-to-day camaraderie. Other than weekly meetings, my co-workers and I have limited face-to-face interaction with each other. We have found social networking sites to be a fun way to share our personal lives with one another to help develop better working dynamics. Facebook.com and Twitter.com both act as virtual water coolers, allowing us to share stories, photos and contact one another informally. Social networking stimulates team work and friendly, working relationships.
Along with the continuous waves of technology and recent industry reports estimating that more than 12 million employees in the U.S. telework more than eight hours a week, virtual offices are no longer a trend of the future but a reality of today.
AquaPR LLC is a marketing and public relations agency based in Atlanta, GA. The firm was established in 2003 by industry veterans who share a vision of combining technology and public relations for client success. AquaPR specializes in implementing traditional public relations with email, custom web sites and online marketing, as well as, social networking media. The members of AquaPR have decades of experience between them in handling the marketing and public relations for some of the worlds largest brands in the business-to-business, business-to-consumer and prosumer sectors, overseeing the launches of world-class technologies, launching issue campaigns that influenced the decisions of multinational corporations and repositioning and re-launching national brands.