TDP Holdings

5258690108_3da1f7bb85Today in Australia, teleworking is fast becoming a real alternative to longer traffic cues and low levels of unemployment.

Teleworking and telecommuting enables employees to work from home as if they were in the office,  technologies that enable this operation of business include high speed internet connections, IP Telephony and Voip Technology, soft phone technology, video conferencing, remote desktop functionality, audio conferencing and a multitude of collaboration technologies such as Google docs and Dropbox. Teleworking or telecommuting are two terms used to explain the use of technology to enable an employee to work from an external location as if they were working inside the business office or location.

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A recent Sensis Insights Report into teleworking noted that around 22% of small businesses have enabled some of their workforce to telework. As far back as the late 1990’s teleworking was a major buzz word due to the proliferation of internet and email reaching into the home. 

Unfortunately the technology was unavailable to make it a viable option to most users.

Today, you may be teleworking without even realising that you are doing so, many businesses operate outside of the normal office space to enable longer periods of focus and concentration on important matters, increase work/life balance, reduce commute times in congested cities or to enable easy access to employment in remote locations.

Teleworking poses a number of advantages for the user and the business, with some of the most important perceived to be allowing managers and senior executives in the business to reduce daily distractions that are prevalent in every office.

 

Teleworking and telecommuting also have broader impacts on society, enabling parents of young children to re-enter the workforce on a project or part time basis whilst enabling them to continue to look after their young children, teleworking also reduces overall CO2 emissions and fuel costs, as there is no commute to and from work.

Have you ever wondered how much your company can reduce CO2 emissions by enabling staff to telecommute? This website has an interesting calculator that can estimate how much your business can save by implementing a work from home policy for certain individuals in your workforce. With the Carbon tax policy being debated in the federal parliament, debate is still at large as to whether fleet cars and corporate cars will be taxed based on the number of kilometers driven. By allowing those staff members to telecommute may reduce your businesses Carbon tax bill in the future. Something to consider…

Click through this link to go to the calculator

 

If you calculated the impact on your business by implementing a work from home and teleworking policy through the above link, you might have found that there could potentially be thousands and thousands of dollars your business could save per year. Primarily the largest savings could be made via cost per employee office space sometimes this can be up to $2000 per employee, others includes reducing personal leave in the business and finally improving staff retention and morale through flexible working conditions. There are many examples of policies and procedures created by government and enterprise organisations that will be useful in developing your own teleworking policy in your business.

To enable your business to adopt teleworking there are a few technologies you can use to allow this to work for you.

 

Internet Connections

With ADSL2+ with speeds up to 24Mbps and the roll out of the National Broadband Network, teleworking makes even more sense now than what it did back in 2005. With reasonable high-speed bandwidth access available to most businesses and residential areas, collaboration with teleworkers and employees in the office make even more sense.

 

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

By using VoIP to connect the teleworker you can enable your phone system to send communication out via the Internet to their location reducing the number of lines in and out of the business. As some VoIP calls can lack audio clarity, it is best advised to utilise VoIP with at least a ADSL2+ connection at the remote location and have reasonable business grade internet at the business to sustain normal traffic as well as audio streaming traffic.

VoIP allows the transfer of calls across the Internet to the remote location.

 

IP Telephony

Most modern phone systems allow businesses to set up the remote location with a office desk phone that acts like it is within the boundaries of the regular business office. At the remote site, it is as easy as plugging in the IP desk phone to the ADSL modem or router via an Ethernet port and the IP phone will communicate with your office phone system directly. This enables staff to dial a regular internal extension and also with direct in dial features, allows the remote user to receive outside calls through their direct line.

 

Video & Audio Conferencing

ip o500 me2The Avaya IP Office is an example of a modern phone system that has 2 built in audio conference bridges to enable meetings via remote locations. Users can dial a direct extension to the conference bridge just like it was a direct phone extension and then enters a password. Your teleworking staff can then participate in regular meetings even when they are not able to get to your office meeting space.

Video conferencing solutions including Polycom’s HDX6000 solution are available for businesses that rely heavily on group meetings and have some teleworkers that would be required to link into the meeting. Other free solutions include simple webcam applications such as Skype. Although Skype is generally used as a one-one free application for audio and video, you can create audio and videoconferences for a small fee. Other companies such as Citrix also provide enterprise grade applications that enable webinars, screen sharing audio conferences and videoconference solutions.

 

Remote Desktop Technology

If your business operates on Windows Server 2008, you have the ability to5258728826_09a13a7143 create remote desktops for your remote workers. This means that they can open an application on their personal computer or laptop and with an Internet connection, connect into the business server and work just as they would be in the office.

They will have all access to the document servers and email you need them to have as well as giving you the assurance that their work is backed up via your general and regular back up procedures in the office. Windows Remote desktop is a Microsoft proprietary application that enables users on virtually any operating system to connect into your Windows Server environment and operate as they would be in the local office network with access to your server, business applications and shared drives.

 

Soft phones

All reputable modern phone systems have soft phone capabilities these days. Soft phones are applications that run off your computer like an IP phone, allowing your computer to connect to your business phone system like it is a phone. Similar to how an IP phone acts in a teleworking environment, the soft phones enable the teleworker to use their computer to call direct extensions, dial fixed line numbers and mobile numbers straight from the computer.

The call receiver will see your number as a regular extension phone number like you were calling from a desk phone in your office. Soft phones are ideal for people that move around for their work and may not have the luxury of carrying a desk phone with them everywhere they may be located.

 

Collaboration Tools

The general assumption about a teleworker is that they must work alone to be able to be productive. Quite simply, it is not the case. Collaboration tools play in important role in facilitating the teleworking environment, as in your business team work can be important in creating good working relationships, collaboration tools enable teleworkers to work on projects with other employees regularly and interact with them outside of group meetings.

Collaboration tools can be screen-sharing utilities, document sharing tools, file sharing tools and so on. Sometimes verbal communication cannot explain the concept as clearly as showing someone on the screen, on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper. That is why collaboration tools can be very effective in sharing the workload across distances.

 

A few collaboration tools that might help:

Google docs - useful for completing tenders where there may be many people working on the same document, allows users to create the document at the same time there by creating one single document. Remove all the “Tender - bob’s edit.doc” files and use one document. Export at the end and you are done!

Skype / iChat - screen sharing capabilities, general audio and IM capabilities free of charge

Stixy - create your own virtual whiteboard to share amongst users

Bubbl.us - brainstorm and mind mapping tool that can be used across multiple users simultaneously

Dropbox - share files across the internet securely, just install one each computer, create a user profile to share across the users and they can easily share files that your email might not be able to manage simply by placing the file in the designated folder from your pc.

Flowr - Use Flowr to share files, exchange ideas, ask questions, post tasks and collaborate with your team in a private and secure network. It’s simple and you can use it for free.

 

Quick Links

A complete guide to Teleworking

Sensis Insights Report 2005

Model Policy for Teleworking

Sample agreement from Swinburne University