Transcript for UCStrategies on Telework
Roberta J. Fox: Good afternoon, everyone listening or reading this podcast. I am excited to facilitate this afternoon's session for two quick reasons. I have been in radio many, many years ago, but it is fun to be able to host today. And secondly, as a long-standing supporter of telework, I am looking forward to hearing what my fellow UCStrategies folks have to say. We have all been working with clients and ourselves within UCStrategies as teleworkers, and also manage and work with people remotely.
So in planning today's podcast, we thought we would cover three major areas. First we will share our definitions of telework and what it means from our own perspectives, which will be rather interesting. Then we will also talk about the lessons learned from various viewpoints. And then we will talk about recommendations for the industry. And lastly, we will just give some of our recommendations for organizations that want to have successful programs. So let's go around the table, so to speak, to share our definitions of telework and what it means.
My definition, for my own team, is the ability to have the right technologies and business processes to have our team and our clients work wherever we need and want to. And be able to be successfully doing our work together. Art, what are your thoughts on this topic of the definition?
Art Rosenberg: Well, I kind of agree with it and one key thing has to do with the time involved in telework. And I think I sent you my experiences many, many years ago, when somebody couldn’t really work on-premise, and they didn’t think of the idea of working off-premise because they wanted a time sheet and to able to check your time and so on. And so I think the bottom line is having the flexibility of doing what is expected of you workwise, while accounting for the time involved in doing that work. But otherwise, it’s not being location based, such as, “you have to be in the office...” You could be in the office sleeping, for that matter, right? But wherever you are, you are doing your job, and you are doing your work. And that can be tracked very easily, as far as time, and you get rid of the time clock syndrome.
Roberta J. Fox: Absolutely, Art, yeah, you are absolutely right. I find it interesting that some companies think about oh, how do we know they are going to be working and not watching Oprah (when it used to be on). People can just as easily be sleeping or browsing at their desk and not working.
Now, we’ll go on to the next topic. I thought this would be an interesting one, where we share our lessons learned, first from the first viewpoint of working together as the UCStrategies team. We are spread all over the continent working from different office locations, as well, as clients engagement sites. My lesson about this is, as one of the newer members, is that we use the technology, like teleconference bridges and webcasts and various other web tools to post our articles, to chat, talk and tweet, things like that. Bill, you had some ideas about lessons learned from a health and safety perspective.
Bill MacKay: A couple of considerations from a health and safety perspective, and these are based on client projects that we have just recently completed. The first one was an E911 project that we working on with a client out of New York City. Their challenge was to be able to support over 200 at-home workers, connected to the company's communication system, with their distributed locations throughout the northeast United States across a number of states.
Prior to our involvement, when an at-home worker dialed 911, the response team was showing up at the corporate headquarters in New York City. Part of their challenge was that they had no one on-site with any knowledge of the emergency call and/or where it was being generated out of.
Of course, that poses some serious risks for the client and also for their employees. What we needed to be able to do was to be able to get some location-based information, provide the correct emergency routing for the PBX, for all of their at-home workers, as well as being able to provide on-site notification of any 911 call.
What was interesting working through all of this is that the requirements have significantly changed the onboarding for all new employees. It also involved business process re-engineering that involved a number of different departments, i.e. Human resources, security and IT have now all become involved, and they’re now talking to each other in terms of what the impact of having homeworkers is on their systems and processes.
The second project involved the needs of another client and their use of IP-based soft phones. What was interesting was being able to get a legal interpretation of when a soft phone becomes a phone?
From this client's perspective, until the user completed a location application, which means that they would provide where they were, based on a street address, etc., the soft phone was only an application and not a phone.
They also needed to include some language that would limit any potential liability if the information that was provided by the employee was incorrect or false. So it was kind of an interesting, different perspective on things, and particularly as it relates to emergency services and 911, and the challenges and considerations of being able to support at-home workers.
Roberta J. Fox: Those are excellent points, Bill. I would also add on even defining what and where is work. I was expert witness on a civil court case involving telework with a union and staff members. A contentious point was how the person could define that they were working, so they could have their health coverage? This highlights that there are a lot of additional things that a lot of people may not have necessarily considered.
Phil, I think you had some interesting history, also, at looking at things from how to manage people, and how to be a virtual telework-enabled manager.
Phil Edholm: Absolutely. For about 12 years I managed a team that was distributed very much around the world. I was in California. My admin was in Ottawa. A very interesting working apart scenario, where we literally would open a communication line and interact during the day.
Let me just talk about a couple of observations that I think are absolutely critical when you manage a teleworking organization. The first is that teleworking only works when you have a management organization that actually manages based on objectives and accomplishments and has measurable capabilities.
I was talking, for example, in the UK about five years ago to people about teleworking, and there was a response that was very strong around in the industries at that time that they need to be able to observe people, when people came to work, when they worked. So you have to change from evaluating people on how many hours they spent sitting at a desk to what they actually accomplished.
But beyond that, there is something I think that for every manager who begins to manage teleworking is even more important. The real danger in teleworking is we lose track of our employees. They become somebody who is out working somewhere, who gets an e-mail occasionally.
What I found was very effective in this was essentially a version of the old HP management by walking around, which I call “management by calling around.” Essentially this means that the manager has to take an active step to literally call staff every week or two. My goal was always once a week, to call every one of my direct reports and just have a conversation. Not call them about a specific project, not have a scheduled one-on-one.
For example, driving to the office in the morning, calling folks on the east coast, you know, driving home at night, call the people in Asia and have a conversation – just a very basic conversation about what is happening in their life; ask them about their family.
The first two or three times you make that call, the person's reaction is, why are you calling me? But after about two or three times, it begins to be expected, and it becomes more of a social conversation.
Actually, as a manager, you learn a lot more about the issues in the organization, and the reality of what’s happening with those kinds of conversations.
I think one of the things is, when a teleworker starts, as a person moves to teleworking, you have to be very careful not to lose them in the shuffle, and have them become disconnected from the organization, both by formal processes like management by objectives, but also by informal processes to keep your relationship up. Thanks.
Robert J. Fox: Bang on, Phil. I had worked for a manager like you in some of my early days. I had an example where a manager didn't sign off on an expense report for seven weeks or eight weeks until he "saw me." And it was just a trivial question. And in the meantime I was pulling my hair out thinking I had done something wrong.
What’s interesting now with the UC apps that we all have access to, is we can also have those almost near face-to-face experiences. But I really appreciate your feedback and guidance on the management practices. This an example of where leaders and managers have to learn how to develop those capabilities and to use the tools to be able to do that.
Marty Parker, did you want to add anything on the lessons learned?
Marty Parker: Thanks, Roberta, for your leadership on this topic and Phil, great comments. Thanks very much.
My addition to what Phil has said is that when we get around to teleworkers, first, I’ll say my definition is not just people who are mobile working anywhere, but people who specifically have their work place not regularly in a company building. And I’ll say this is related to the virtual team idea that Phil mentions, but I am thinking specifically about those who have to work from a home location.
One of the challenges there that our clients have found is the need to be in touch with people, as Phil described, in a way that is kind of immersive. They have gone to social networking tools. One of our clients went, for example, to IBM Connections, which is social networking for business in IBM's terminology. And I think we will see more of that that as people are remote, they need to have that social connection, they need to have their page where they can post things, pictures and events and things, their sports interest and so forth just like they do on the walls of their cubicles, now they can do it on their page in the social environment.
They also should be equipped with video. We have seen the need to be able to open up that video, turn on the camera just to be in touch and have that water cooler chat that Phil was talking about. In addition to the business needs at time to time, the ability to see people in meetings, the ability to see them in a social setting as well is important. That’s my addition to this part of the conversation. Back to you, Roberta.
Roberta J. Fox: Art, did you want to add anything else on the lessons learned?
Art Rosenberg: Well, I think that Phil and Marty are right on. But as you pointed out, we have the flexibility with UC to be able to shift from one mode to another, depending on the situation and the dynamics of that situation. So you might get an e-mail, you might see a document, whatever it is, and you have the option of click-to-talk or click-to-video, to make that realtime connection that gives you what Phil was talking about, an interactive dynamic relationship as opposed to just exchanging information. So, that is one of the benefits that I think UC will bring to teleworking as we have that kind of flexibility.
Roberta J. Fox: Excellent, thanks Art. You also made me think about, when you were saying HP and when I was with Deloitte, we used to have as a global firm we had a third Friday fly back, where we came together to Toronto. And that was the only time I ever saw the people that worked for the same company. I have tried to do the same thing with Fox Group, except ours is virtual. So the third Friday, we do a video call, because we are in two provinces and two countries, right? And it really helps. That personal relationship is really important within a virtual distributed organization.
Art Rosenberg: Right, right.
Roberta J. Fox: Okay, the next idea we’d thought we would share, and this is the one I am particularly looking forward to, and hope our industry listeners and readers take advantage of the guidance, is how can the technology industry, whether that’s telecom or IT, are going to give clients information and recommendations on offers and services that the industry could be providing to help telework grow and ensure that they’re successful programs and solutions. First we will go over first to Joseph to give your perspective.
Joseph Williams: So one of the things that has proven to be very interesting and have a lot of upside, is to collaborate with local and regional government around their vision of city planning and regional development and how unified communications and telework would fit into that.
A really good example would be some negotiations we had a couple of years back with the Government of Queensland in Australia, where they have some horrible traffic congestion problems. They wanted to specifically encourage information workers to work from home from 7 in the morning until 9 and then come in and potentially leave midafternoon to go back, because they knew the information workers did not need to be on the road during congestion times. We have had similar conversations with governments in the U.S. and in Britain, as well.
There is the public policy side of telework that often gets overlooked. It is a collaboration between the vendor, the enterprise and the government, so that makes is not always easy to do. It is not something we always think about, but it ultimately has some payoffs.
The payoffs could be government incentives. It could be a checkmark that the enterprise gets around corporate social responsibility. It could be something that the individual workers for the company feel is their contribution is for the greater good, and also so that flexibility is really interesting and something that people ought to explore more. Thanks.
Roberta J. Fox: Joseph, I am going to ask you a question, and maybe some of the other folks that are in California. California was the real leader in incentives and punishment for telework programs including guidelines and policies related to corporate parking and car pooling.
Have any of you seen things happen to expand to other states? Because I know in Canada, they always talk about it a lot. All we have had is ‘Smart Commute’ programs and we also have federal personal tax credits for teleworkers. But we haven’t seen any other local or provincial governments trying to push or encourage organizations to do that. Any feedback from anybody?
Joseph Williams: Well, let me take a quick stab it. I live in Seattle, which is very congested, because we basically live and die off of three bridges. Our local government has focused more on public transportation and biking as a solution rather than focusing on telework.
Although this is a high tech community and telework is very common, it’s been done by the enterprise. The relationship is between the enterprise and the employee, with very little government involvement. It is just not on the government's agenda, despite a lot of efforts to try to make it so. So, at least in Seattle, it hasn't really paid out.
Roberta J. Fox: Anybody else have comments from their viewpoint, geographically?
Phil Edholm: Saying California is very interesting because, of course, the big news over the last about six months was the Yahoo CEO’s position of essentially eliminating teleworking for all of the employees. That created quite a firestorm here in California around that as being a backlash to teleworking and the disadvantages of teleworking. I think it again reflects back on the fact that if you don’t do teleworking well, it can potentially be seen as a negative to the performance of the business and employees.
Roberta J. Fox: Right, absolutely. What I will do now is we will turn over to hear Jon Arnold's comments, to get his feedback on what it means to the industry.
Jon Arnold: Thanks, Roberta. This has been a really interesting chat so far and obviously, teleworking has a lot of places it can be used. Certainly for us as independents consultants and analysts, it is a huge kind of driver to keep us connected.
We can use email all day long, of course, but there is really nothing like having a real-time element of the voice piece, short of, of course, being there or using video. But I think it speaks to the power of voice that we really still prefer to use the phone as the best way to talk when we really have to communicate. So I think still the tele-part of teleworking, is really, really important.
But I think broader in terms of industry-based trends, one I think this really speaks to is the technology that drives telecommunications; and it is not just telephony, right? I mean it’s soft phones, it’s Web-based voice, it’s click-to-call, all the various ways we can use voice with the Internet that allow us to use voice in different ways than we could have in the past that enable teleworking. So not only do the technologies make it more practical and productive to work this way, but of course the economics are there, too.
And because of that, businesses can think differently about how they structure their workforces, because it used to be that voice was an expensive way to stay in touch, but not any longer. The inherent value of voice doesn’t change.
I think that is where the teleworking piece really gets interesting as far as supporting a broader range of people that you normally would not, in a remote way. What I mean by broader, by the way, is not just – you can justify having more people working remotely, but a greater range of people working remotely, and together.
What I think is really underappreciated about the potential for teleworking is that it gives different segments of the population new opportunities to work in ways that they normally couldn’t have before. An examples of that that I would cite here would be people who are not able to get outvery much, people who have disabilities, physical disabilities, for example, who are housebound but can still work productively if you just put a phone in their hands.
I think it also speaks well to seniors who may not have many opportunities for full-time work, but through teleworking, can still be involved and engaged in ways that are still productive for companies to use.
And then, of course, we have the whole realm of specialized skillsets where you may only need someone with targeted expertise for two minutes on a phone call to help a customer, to find that person is the hard part, but to have them handy, telework is really, I think, the avenue to provide that because you keep them available on-call, and it’s a very easy way to engage them with customers on a short notice.
So that is kind of how I look at this. Telework is probably another way of talking about remote workers, but I do think the “tele” piece of this, the voice piece, is what really makes it interesting to add a human touch to having remote workers. It is a substitute for paying them to come into the office every day. Thanks, Roberta.
Roberta J. Fox: I guess the last one I would have is it would be really useful if a lot of these technology companies are themselves telework organizations. Maybe they should share some of their lessons learned and show some leadership positions.
Our last topic here is to give our sort of top points that we think related to corporations, whether they are government, private sector, education, and how can they ensure successful programs, both for the companies and their employees and even the customers.
We will first get our thoughts from Marty Parker, who has done some work on this with his clients in the past, and has some interesting viewpoints to share. Marty, let's hear your comments.
Marty Parker: Right, Roberta. For the corporations here are some tips that I would offer to them. The first is classic unified communications methods and messages. Look at the employee roles. What are the people doing? Where do they fit into your value chain? Some roles are easy to move into a telework environment; some not so much.
For example, the front counter teller at the bank, well, the person wants to see them. We are starting to see some visual kiosks at banks, but that tends to be more for a specialized transaction like a reverse mortgage or something. If I want to go in and hand someone some cash and get some cash back, or deposit some checks, I am going to need to see the person in front of me. So that’s not going to be a telework model.
Think about this as work flow; how does the work flow through to these remote people? If your corporation hasn't yet gone to electronic documents and there is a lot of paper flow that’s not going to work too well. But if you do think about it as work flow then you will find great opportunities in some cases where the work is in electronic format or you are working with teams across locations and so forth.
This is another point to make is this is related to other initiatives at your firm and in the market. We have I would say a tendency to disintegrating work. That is to breaking it down into pieces and assigning it out to different parts of the organization or to sub contractors or to supply chain partners. Most supply chains work that way with multiple parties in them and those parties are not going to be in the same physical place. Some large corporations have follow-the-sun types engineering organizations. There are all sorts of ways where what we think of as telework is also being reflected as work flows even in the buildings because that’s how the work is moving most efficiently.
Once you understand what your roles are and your work flows are going to be, then you want to get the right technology suite for the combined work group both on site and teleworkers. You are going to want social networking with personal pages so people can post the same kind of things they did on their walls in their cubicles before. You want presence so they know who is available for them, instant messaging to start a chat. You’ll want video with good camera capability, sufficient lighting, and sufficient bandwidth.
You will want everything you do encrypted end-to-end. Don't make them use a VPN in order to get logged in and into the enterprise. So that means a certain type of technology, and I mean encrypted end to end, not just from point to point. They also need to be able to join into conference room meetings, so besides seeing their peers, they should be able to join into the team meetings and conference rooms by voice and video and document sharing.
Be sure you have good document sharing and editing tools for those people working remotely. It is kind of a suite of technology for those people.
Then you want to do some really good piloting, supporting and proliferating – that is going to be human resources or communications department whatever their title might be supporting you in this initiative.
You want to celebrate successes; you want to tune the program based on feedback.
Then you want to be clear about the budgets and the benefits. I have seen cases, it costs about $6,000 per office, per year in a major metropolitan area to house somebody, so when you move them to a home office you got some money to be allocated out. Some can go to the bottom line. Some should go to buying the technology they need, i.e. the camera they need, or the headset they need, or whatever that suite of technology is going to be to support that remote worker.
By the way, it’s about $3,000 per office in a suburban area. So between about $3,000 and $6,000, but I have seen cases where the whole project failed because real estate grabbed all the savings and said well, you know, that’s office savings; we get to spend it all on other purposes.
Or well, when they come into the building we are going to need to have fancy spaces for them so we are going to spend all of that money on renovations that eats up all of the savings.
So you want to be careful before you go in that it’s not just providing savings that real estate can spend anywhere, without the proper technology.
It is really a team effort where you take the benefits and allocate them between contribution to the bottom line, support for the remote worker, appropriate on site space when they come to the building, and make sure that’s a balance amongst the team.
It is also, I will say at the end, that it is an important part of the next generation corporation!
This is how we are all going to be working in the future, and it is important to include this in your long term plan. My best wishes to people who are doing this, I encourage every company listening to put some thought into this remote work and telework idea. Thanks, Roberta, for the opportunity to provide some insight an guidance.
Roberta J. Fox: Well, we are certainly getting some real good feedback here. And last but not least is my friend Steve Leaden, who works with enterprise and government clients, and who has also worked on some technology strategies and some process and management practices for telework programs. Steve, over to you.
Steve Leaden: Thanks, Roberta. I think this is a great topic. I am going to take it from the drivers as to why you should even consider a teleworker environment.
From the point of view of our consulting practice point of view, with every new client that we engage in, and the needs assessments that we are involved in when we get started with a client, we always pose the question: do you have a remote or teleworker environment, or are you considering that?
It always seems to drive home first in the contact center environment, simply because it seems to be a starting point where you get flexibility for workers and worker time, et cetera, et cetera. In fact, Jet Blue is a company that was founded based upon a whole teleworker kind of environment. Very interesting.
We have also seen a lot of technology-driven companies looking to virtualize their staffs as much as possible via a teleworker kind of environment, so we are definitely seeing growing interest. There obviously needs to be policies built around that from a company point of view.
But let me get you some statistics here that are very, very interesting that I think will drive home some of the talking points around teleworkers. Numerous studies have been done that have been proven that people are more productive being remote and teleworkers. Telecommuting cuts down on costs during peak hours.
I will give you just one example here from a real estate point of view. With all of our client studies, everybody is looking at some level of return on investment in ROI, and how can we leverage both facilities as well as the human factor in terms of direct, hard-dollar costs in order to manage again the total cost of an infrastructure in a company?
Of course, the three top costs for any major corporation include real estate, personnel, and communications costs. From a real estate point of view, if you use 150 square feet per person and if you have a 50-agent call center, and if you can create a teleworking environment out of those, that’s $260,000 savings per month using a $35/square foot dollar figure, which equals $3.1 million annually in terms of savings. That’s pretty significant.
It also improves employee morale with less turnover.
Thirdly, we have found that 10 percent of American workers spend at least one day a week clocking in time from home, according to government data. And the percent of people working exclusively from home has climbed to just under 10 percent in 2010, from only five percent in 1997. So there is definitely a trend here.
Let me give you some additional statistics that we have been using with other clients as well. There was a Chinese travel agency that did an at-home teleworker study, and found some interesting statistics, including nine percent of the staff spent more time on phone calls, handling four percent more calls per minute, were sick less often and reported to be happier, and quit less frequently. And just from a turnover point of view alone, that’s a huge statement.
So really, what kinds of technologies can we use for the remote worker? Well, from a unified communications and collaboration point of view, the tools are really endless. Of course, using unified communications as a baseline, the tools are definitely out there and available to take advantage of. I will give you a couple right here:
Soft phones and hard phones are available for teleworkers. They can work remotely from home. They can work remotely via a cable modem; and obviously, again, those particular costs or the ability to work from home are attached to that and less real estate, et cetera, costs.
You also have a one-number/follow-me-and-reach-me twinning so you can publish just one number. Now that is obviously outside the contact center, but that can work for administrative personnel.
You have IM, chat and presence functions, which can connect your teams geographically across multiple geographies.
You can schedule meet-me conferencing and invites for participation with a single-use interface.
You can use unified messaging across all borders.
You can eliminate fax machines by using TIF files in your inbox with Unified Messaging as another example.
So really, when you think about it, all of us spend at least some time every week doing web-based conference calls, and why not leverage that into a teleworker-kind of environment?
One last example. We are deploying a 7,000-endpoint cloud solution for a client right now nationally, and the entire IT team that is developing all of this is working remotely.
The bottom line is there are huge, tangible ROI dollars attached to teleworkers. You have a more satisfied employee at the end, but that, of course, has to be couched and coupled with policies that protect the company at large as well as the teleworker at large.
Roberta J. Fox: Okay. I thought I would just give my top three telework tips using my David Letterman approach.
We’ve done time and motion studies as many people say you cannot measure productivity. That is not true. You can measure job output. You can measure workload. You can measure time-to-completion, quality and accuracy. We have done this for over fifteen thousand people across many organizations. Depending on the job role, you can have productivity of minus four, yes you can have negative results, with up to 40 percent increase.
The numbers depend on the days of the week and the type of job roles. But ideally, the optimal for corporate roles is two days per week and then whether that is inside people or outside people.
I’m sure my fellow UC experts here can agree, telework is definitely not for every person. Not everybody can be a good teleworker. It’s definitely not for every manager and all organizations. It’s a case of one of the situations where one size doesn’t fit all and you can have a great person who can work in an office and send them home for a couple of days. Even if they are quiet or reserved, they can necessarily not be successful.
And I guess the last point for the organizations, people talk primarily about telework from a technology viewpoint. It will continue to grow and evolve as organizations evolve and as the workforce evolves. But it is really an individual human function with stages that each one of us has had to go through. Phil, you covered your points, and Art, and Bill McKay and Joseph. And it really is not just at the organization level. We all have to learn how to deal with this trend.
When properly planned and executed, telework can have positive effects on the employees, the companies and their customers. Does anybody have any last thoughts that they want to add?
Art Rosenberg: Yes, Roberta, for the last, I don't know four or five years, I think, anytime I talked to someone in a contact center, a call center, I would always ask them, “Are you working from home yet?” Ninety-eight percent of the time they say, “I wish.” This response was for every country in the world, wherever they are.
Lately, in the last year or so, some of the people say "I am working from home.", so it is going to be a matter of time for some of this technology to perform everything that needs to be done, for security as well as accessibility and so on. But we are making progress in this area.
Roberta J. Fox: Great ideas Art, and thanks to my fellow UCStrategies experts that participated in today’s podcast.
We do encourage all organizations, especially those hiring the next generation employees coming down the stream to consider the fact that if we do not have these type of flexible work programs, we are not going to get the young people to join our firms. From our research and client projects, it is becoming a major decision factor of the n-gens in who they choose to work for.
We also encourage organizations to consider the fact that they can take advantage of us aging baby boomers, as semiretired and part time workers to not only fill in gaps, whether hours, or skills, but to be able to keep the corporate knowledge and experience accessible and enable us to transfer that knowledge to next generation employees.
If the readers or listeners are interested in further tips on telework, we have published a whitepaper titled "Telework and Virtual Organizations" that provide insight and guidance based on our experience of 25+ years, productivity research across thousands of staff and many companies and sectors, and being involved in two leading telework associations. I would be happy to share with readers, just drop me a note. I am also in the process of writing a book, coming out in early 2014 titled “The Virtual Organization, Pathways to Telework Success.” In the book, I will be sharing our many tips, traps and experience to provide organizations with the detailed information they need to ensure successful telework and virtual organization programs.
The perfect storm of broadband network accessibility, (whether wired or wireless), mobile computing devices, combined with the use of various mobile communications apps and technology management tools and practices, enables organizations to take almost any job and extend it to remote locations.
It is also equally important to properly design, test, and install the other elements of working remote, whether being good workspace, proper chairs, file storage, lighting, in addition to the various technology elements already discussed, all supported by the right policies and management practices.
Telework is no longer a novel concept and is a trend that will continue to grow throughout the world, and all organizations should investigate and consider, disregarding size, location or type of organization!
In closing, we encourage our listeners and readers to provide us with some of their examples of success stories or challenges they have faced and overcome as well!