Recently en route to Panama, I spent my time on the plane as I usually do—going through a stack of magazines to catch up on what’s going on and get some new ideas. But an article in Technology Review entitled “Urban Renewal” got me thinking about an old idea: telecommuting.
Did you know that half the world’s population currently lives in urban areas? By 2050, 70 percent will live in and around cities. The TR article discusses how in the future, transportation systems will have to change dramatically to handle the mass movement of people to and from work every day without negatively affecting the environment. Traffic here on DC’s Capitol Beltway is truly brutal today—I can’t imagine what it’ll be like 40 years from now.
So what happened to the idea of telecommuting? I’m surprised at the generally low level of telecommuting today. More telecommuting would certainly ease road congestion, cut fuel consumption and reduce pollution—not to mention the amount of stressful, unproductive time that so many people spend sitting in traffic jams every workday.
I think that successful telecommuting requires just a few key elements:
- Management leadership. Management needs to encourage telecommuting and support employees with trust and training to make it a win-win proposition for their employees and companies alike.
- Training. All employees who want to telecommute need to learn the right and wrong ways to work from home. They need training in best practices for working away from the office.
- The right tools. Telecommuters will need certain tools to maintain their connection with the office and its enterprise-level technologies to keep up their productivity as they work in remote locations.
The good news is that those tools are readily available right now.
Take BroadWorkstm Anywheretm as an example. Even though I travel a great deal, I rarely give out my cell phone number. I generally give everyone my business phone number because BroadWorks Anywhere extends the features of my desk telephone to softphones and mobile phones regardless of manufacturer or network. So no matter where I am, anyone can get in touch with me, and the caller’s contact information is displayed to me on the incoming call.
And think about all of the other IP-based communication services designed to make us all more productive—that’s the essence of unified communications. You just need to be online with a smartphone or computer. You can see who else is on, make or take phone calls, set up and sit in on conference calls, get messages and email, text, tweet and fax. You can even attend video conferences from wherever you happen to be working on a given day. The UC features don’t care if you are sitting at headquarters or in your home office–they just work.
At BroadSoft we’ve partnered with Microsoft to integrate with Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and Collaboration Version 4.5, which allows users to work from virtually anywhere. We also recently introduced BroadWorkstm Connector for Lotustm Sametimetm –a powerful plug-in that enables enterprises to access BroadSoft’s IP telephony and unified communications capabilities from within IBM’s UC2 platform.
As I said last summer, I believe now is the time for video. A video conference is like being there. There are other important video business applications, as well. We’ve partnered with Polycom to launch a number of joint video solutions. Along the same lines we’ve also collaborated with Tandberg to launch new hosted video business solutions that providers can offer to their customers in an affordable, hassle-free service model.
At BroadSoft we personally experience the tremendous benefits of these communications options on a daily basis. Many of our employees work from remote locations, connecting to headquarters via the latest video phones using the latest Web-collaboration and document-sharing tools. These employees are virtually connected, allowing our global employee base to work as one.
I believe that there’s great opportunity for our service providers in helping companies implement telecommuting programs. The incentives are obvious: Telecommuting saves money, improves productivity and reduces the impact of commuting on the environment.
With all of the benefits available through UC today, maybe traffic on the Beltway won’t be so bad in 2050 after all.