“Two Sides of the Telecommuting Coin”: A Telecommuting Checklist for Remote Workers and Their Managers

When executed correctly, telecommuting can be an exceptional asset to companies looking to boost employee morale while maximizing productivity and efficiency. However, remote work is not without its challenges. PGi’s Two Sides of the Telecommuting Coin: Tips for Remote Workers and Their Managers is a telecommuting checklist that examines in detail both sides of the telecommuting equation.

There are countless resources out there to help remote workers overcome the obstacles of telecommuting. However, there are markedly fewer places for the managers of remote employees to seek advice on how to handle their remote reports. With these tips, managers of remote employees can learn how best to manage their workers, and remote workers can learn how best to manage themselves.

Check out PGi’s Two Sides of the Telecommuting Coin: Tips for Remote Workers and Their Managers and ensure that your remote team is operating effectively on both ends.

What is Agile Work?

For many years that term “flexible work” has been synonymous with the idea of telecommuting or remote work. With the proliferation of cloud-based technology the idea of flexible work has become more widely accepted by modern workplaces.

But a newer term, agile work, is a concept that has been overpowering the idea of flex work recently. While the terms seem interchangeable there is a difference.

Agile work is a way of working in which an organization empowers its people to work from wherever they would like and however they would like by limiting constraints and maximizing flexibility in order to truly optimize productivity. According to FM World, agile work is a new paradigm,“a transitional tool”, that is the cornerstone of an organization’s strategy providing benefits on cost, productivity and sustainability. Benefits, it argues, that are for not only for the organization, but the employee and customer as well.

But, isn’t that the same as flex work? Well, the terms are very similar, but there is a difference. According to The Agile Organization, flexible working falls under the idea that an employee can work anytime and anywhere, a two dimensional concept. Agile work is more multidimensional—not just limited to doing the same work in the same way at a difference time and place. Instead of focusing on when and where people work, agile work focuses on the efficiency of the work.

Agile work is based on the idea that work is an activity we do rather than a place we go. And with new tools supported by ever-improving cloud technology, workers can truly eliminate the concept of the work has been done traditionally in order to work efficiently to meet customers’ needs, reduce costs and overheads, all while improving sustainability.

Though this new concept aims at the benefit of the organization, many barriers remain for some companies in the adoption process of this idea. Agile work truly revolves around culture and mindset, and simply buying the latest technology and investing in new workspaces is not enough to make agile work a success.

This change will involve organizational culture and individual mindset shifts to embrace the idea that work is not a place, it is an activity. Pace, unpredictability and scale are the biggest challenges for organizations today. Companies must truly become agile in order to make this concept a success.

2015 PGi Global Telework Survey

We know flexible work is on the rise, but what exactly does telework look like across the globe? PGi polled nearly 3,000 knowledge workers across three regions on telework to find out: North America (NA); Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific Japan (APJ).

Download the free 2015 PGi Global Telework Survey to find out where in the world workers are telecommuting, which technologies they’re using to work outside the office and how organizations around the world now perceive teleworkers.

Choosing a Mobile Meeting App for Your Remote Workforce

Whether it’s a business call, web conference or online presentation, joining meetings can present a challenge for those working outside of the office. If your team is comprised of remote workers, then you understand the key to remaining productive and effective is staying connected. One of the best ways to make sure your remote work force is in tune with the business, regardless of their location, is a great mobile meeting app.

A mobile meeting app consolidates meeting information and functionality into one user-friendly interface that can be accessed by tablets and mobile devices. These apps aim at facilitating business collaboration through video and audio conferencing abilities, file sharing and real-time chat features—all in one place.

Harnessing the benefits of a mobile meeting app will enhance your team’s ability to collaborate more efficiently, but what should you look for when choosing a mobile meeting app for your team? Check out some of these features that merit evaluation:

User Experience: Before comparing all other features on the mobile meeting app, the first and most important thing to consider is the user experience. It should be consistent, have a simple interface, intuitive navigation and enable easy meeting entry. A simple, easy-to-use design will be a make-or-break feature for your employees; investing in a mobile meeting app will only be lucrative if your employees are actually willing to use it.

Consistency: As a remote workforce, having a mobile meeting app that delivers a consistent experience across desktops, smartphones and tablets is crucial to achieving success outside the office. Look for a cloud-based service that allows your team to move seamlessly between mobile devices and desktops. With a consistent design, teams will be able to find the features they need while continuously transitioning between working in-office and on-the-go.

File Sharing: Thanks to advances in business collaboration technology, mobile meeting apps now have the ability to share information across various platforms. Consider a mobile meeting app that fosters collaboration through file sharing features—whether it be presentations, videos, images or even spreadsheets.

Hosting Capabilities: A final important feature to review while looking for a mobile meeting app is hosting capabilities. As a member of a remote team, you need the ability to host meetings on the go, and finding a mobile meeting app that allows you to do so right from the palm of your hand can really save time. Also, look for an app that includes features that allow you to easily invite guests, pass control of the meeting across various devices and has mobile screen sharing.

Ready to test drive a mobile meeting app with all of these features? Try iMeet by PGi free for 30 days and learn more about telecommuting in PGi’s free eBook, The Yin and Yang of Telecommuting.

How Virtual Meetings Can Save Your Business Money

There’s no denying that the business communications landscape has changed drastically over the last few years. New and progressive technologies are empowering companies to become more productive and efficient. While any innovative technology can be an investment that moves new business forward, virtual meetings are one of the most cost-effective and lucrative tools your company should be taking advantage of.

You’ve probably heard of virtual meetings before, and thought, “My business doesn’t really need a complex and advanced tool like that! I’m only meeting with clients and employees a few times a week, and phone calls or face-to-face meetings are sufficient enough.” But with virtual meetings, you can enhance those meetings and cut some of your largest business costs.

Travel: Let’s be honest – travel costs for a business can be prohibitive, but with the click of a virtual meeting link, you can gain access to a digital tool that helps maintain quality relationships both internally and externally without requiring people to be in the same room.

Hotels, plane tickets, car rentals and food expenses can really start adding up when your employees are traveling for events, meetings or trainings. Utilizing a virtual meetings tool can help you control and decrease your meeting costs by bringing everyone together online.

Overhead: Daily operational costs like utilities, materials, and office supplies are a reality for all business owners. A solution to high overheads could be as simple as allowing employees to telecommute. Research shows that if a typical business allowed its employees to work from home just half the time, it could save on average $11,000 per year. Those employees would personally save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year on work-related and transportation costs. What employee wouldn’t be happy to save money?

Speaking of happy employees, those who telecommute report greater productivity while working from home, and according to research done by Connect Solutions, 23 percent of those telecommuting are willing to work longer hours, with 52 percent less likely to take time off when working remotely.

The benefits of telecommuting end up being a pretty simple equation: allowing flexibility with telecommuting means employees will be more productive and more likely to stay with their employer, increasing retention rates and saving you money.

Time: A final invaluable cost that you can save by using virtual meetings is your time. Without the hassle of planning travel, finding meeting spaces and making sure there’s enough coffee to fuel your meeting, you’ll save hours of work that can be used more productively.

Telecommuting and the use of virtual meetings may not be right for every business. But if you’re a business owner looking to cut costs, you owe it to yourself – and your business’s finances – to give it a test drive.

If you’re ready to try cost-effective and collaborative virtual meetings, sign up for a free 30-day trial of PGi’s iMeet®. Looking to learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting? Check out PGi’s free eBook, “The Yin and Yang of Telecommuting”.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Telecommuting?

In a recent webinar survey from PGi’s Hitting a Home Run With Collaboration, less than eight percent of respondents said they worked in an office five days a week. The overwhelming majority said they worked remotely at least occasionally.

The number of workers telecommuting is estimated in the millions and expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. So why is everyone choosing remote work over an office cubicle?

The Pursuit of Work-Life Balance
In a 2014 Staples survey, the top reason employees said they preferred telecommuting is work-life balance. Flexible work programs like telecommuting typically offer employees enough flexibility to greet the kids when they arrive from school, visit the doctor or even squeeze in fitness and healthier meals throughout the day.

Plus, telecommuting helps employees avoid some of the downfalls of the office, like stress and interruptions. Without office politics, team conflicts, noise and other disturbances from co-workers, employees gain greater focus and productivity (and potentially save more time during the workday).

Following work-life balance, employees also enjoy the transportation savings and green benefits of working from home, according to the survey. About 600,000 people in the U.S. have a 90-minute commute and a quarter commute across county lines, according to the Census Bureau. The gas savings alone adds up to extra padding in bank accounts, but skipping the commute also circles back to better work-life balance.

An average commuter would save about 50 minutes and a megacommuter three entire hours each day by telecommuting, which means more time for work or personal obligations. Additionally, commuters rate their overall satisfaction and happiness lower than telecommuters, which in turn effects well-being and productivity, according to a 2014 report on Commuting and Personal Well-Being by the Office for National Statistics.

The Telecommuting Effect on Engagement
So what does all of this mean for employers? Companies can take advantage of the benefits of telecommuting to attract, compete for and retain top talent. In fact, telecommuting is one of the top job features workers now seek out according to 71 percent in the Staples survey.

Telecommuting also benefits a company’s bottom line by positively impacting employee engagement. Even after onboarding, the majority of employees in flexibility programs report higher engagement, motivation and satisfaction as a result of telecommuting, according to WorldatWork’s 2013 Survey on Workplace Flexibility.

PGi’s own Telework Week Survey in 2014 found that not only do employees experience improvements in stress and productivity when telecommuting, but also in morale and absenteeism (by 80 and 69 percent). When given freedom and room for personal development, a well-managed and tech-supported telecommuting program yields happier, more dedicated and engaged workers even from afar.

Telecommuting is not without hurdles for both workers and supervisors, but any new change requires an overhaul to our habits and attitudes about the way we work and manage others. By tackling these challenges now, employees and employers can better prepare for the future of work and telecommuting.

Learn more about what telecommuting is at PGi now, and explore the other benefits of this flexible work option in PGi’s free eBook, The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.

Featured Image Source: Death to the Stock Photo

What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is a work option where knowledge workers perform their job outside of a traditional office space.

It’s also known as telework, remote work, mobile work and work from home, but telecommuting isn’t limited to working at home. Telecommuters also work while traveling, at coffee shops, rental office spaces and other company-approved places of their choice.

In fact, the definition of telecommuting is a somewhat undefined but evolving concept as more workers employ this work method full-time, part-time or on entirely virtual teams. It is part of the broader category of flex work—flexible work options that give employees control over their schedule.

Telecommuting cannot happen without the right technology, and advancements in the virtual work environment have supported the rise and acceptance of telecommuting.

Telecommuters have to use a variety of communication and collaboration tools to complete their work and stay connected to supervisors and teammates, including:

  • An Internet connection, typically Wi-Fi;
  • Email;
  • Audio, typically VoIP or cell phone;
  • Instant messaging;
  • Social business tools such as intranets or social media;
  • Online forums and communities;
  • Video and web conferencing;
  • Online meetings; and
  • Online team workspaces.

The Benefits and Challenges of Telecommuting

For workers, the benefits of telecommuting include:

• Work-life balance (or integration): The flexibility to work from home aids in better health and less absenteeism. Employees can focus on wellness while still working and avoid the stresses of commuting and in-office politics.

• Enhanced productivity: Employees are empowered to employ their own workstyle while telecommuting, collaborating only at their most opportune times and avoiding office distractions.

• Less travel: The ability to skip the commute helps employees not only go green but also save on the time and monetary costs of travel.

Companies also reap the benefits of:

• Increased productivity: Since employees have the flexibility to choose where, when and how they want to work, they have more potential to reach their highest levels of productivity, increasing output.

• Cost savings: Telecommuting also saves companies money on business travel and large office costs, and telecommuting aids in globalization as companies expand their reach.

• Employee retention: As an employee perk, telecommuting helps companies better compete for (and retain) talent among a wider pool of candidates, as well as retain the talent of happier workers.

• Availability: During severe weather, telecommuting allows companies to continue work when travel is too dangerous. Additionally, telecommuters typically use fewer sick days.

Despite the numerous benefits, telecommuting is not without challenges for both employees and companies.

Telecommuters must learn how to better establish working relationships, maintain transparency and make ongoing communication a top priority. They also face misconceptions that telecommuters are unproductive, sometimes penalized in terms of promotions.

Meanwhile, companies must learn new management styles for telecommuters, find out how to cultivate company culture and innovation within a telecommuting workforce and identify the most efficient means of tracking accountability.

Learn More

To learn more about telecommuting and its impact on workers and businesses, check out these additional resources:

  1. Learn more about the pros and cons of telecommuting in PGi’s free eBook, “The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.”
  2. Discover the best productivity tips for your telecommuting personality type in PGi’s free eBook, “Which Type of Teleworker Are You?
  3. Keep up with PGi’s latest telecommuting blog posts at The Future of Business Collaboration.

Image Source: Startup Stock Photos

The Modern Worker’s Etiquette Handbook

We’ve long been taught about professional courtesy and etiquette in the workplace. Stand when being introduced or when someone is exiting the room.  Always give a firm handshake. Send thank-you notes after meetings. In a world of primarily virtual interaction, from emails to conference calls to online meetings, our etiquette tips haven’t evolved beyond the age of the Rolodex®. What good is knowing how to give a firm handshake if you never meet someone in person?

Download the free eBook to learn modern business etiquette tips on everything from email to telecommuting.

Defining Productivity in a Virtual Workplace

Working in your virtual workplace can be very different than working in a traditional office. Instead of being surrounded by colleagues and managers, you are completely on your own. Staying free of distraction and keeping your productivity levels high is your responsibility.

Even though you don’t have a manager watching your every move, you’re still expected to deliver positive results and on time. So how do you ensure your colleagues and boss feel that you are maintaining your productivity when working away from the office?

Here are a few tips:

  • Stay connected

When working from outside the office, it can be easy to get distracted. Taking the dog for a long walk, taking care of household chores or even running out for some errands. It’s important that you don’t disconnect for long periods of time. Coworkers should be able to easily contact you through a phone call, email or instant message. If you tend to walk away from your computer hours at a time, it might create some ill feelings among your team—especially if their working from the office.

  • Meet your deadlines

No matter where you’re working from, it’s important to always meet your deadlines. If for some reason you think you will be late, inform your boss as soon as you can. But don’t make it a habit. Constantly missing deadlines won’t go unnoticed for too long.

  • Show your face

Geographically dispersed teams often lack quality face-to-face time. This is why you should show your face as often as possible. Online meeting tools like iMeet allow you to turn on a personal web camera so you can have high quality face-to-face meetings with your clients and colleagues. Up to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. iMeet eliminates the need for you to solely rely on words, and makes it possible for you to pick up on non-verbal cues you may have otherwise missed out on.

Are you interested in learning more about telecommuting and working from a virtual workplace? Download our free eBook: The Ying + Yang of Telecommuting.

If you’d like to learn more about iMeet and how it can keep you connected with your colleagues, try it free for 30 days.

Must-Have Mobile Apps for Telework Productivity

Telecommuting makes it possible for individuals to work outside an employer’s location. They can choose to work from home, a shared office space or even a coffee shop. Although some individuals are able to be more productive while working away from the office, there can be some challenges. To ensure you are a successful teleworker, it’s important to be equipped with the right tools. If you aren’t already taking advantage of the following four mobile apps, you should consider giving them a try.

HootSuite: This app provides a dashboard that allows you to manage multiple social profiles and platforms from one place. With the paid version, members from your team can login to share content on behalf of your brand.

Worksnug: Sometimes you may need a new change of scenery. It may be a beautiful day or your internet may not be getting a strong signal. This app provides laptop friendly workspaces in your area. Each area is given a rating of its atmosphere, WiFi signal and noise levels.

iMeet: Just because you’re working away from the office doesn’t mean you can’t meet face-to-face with colleagues, clients or prospects. With a video conferencing app like iMeet, you can host or join a meeting from anywhere. iMeet can be used on your desktop, tablet or smartphone. The low bandwidth HD video and superior sound quality allows you to see and hear everyone clearly.

Doodle: Keeping track of everyone’s schedule can be difficult and time consuming. Doodle provides a fast and simple way to schedule meetings with multiple people. It can be used on mobile devices and across multiple time zones. It’s free, easy and doesn’t require any registration for any participants.

Would you like to know more about telecommuting and flexible work? Be sure to download our free eBook “The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.” This eBook discusses various modern work trends.

If you would like more information about iMeet and how you can maintain productivity while working away from the office, take a free trial.

Related Articles:

Top 10 Coolest Coworking Spaces in the US

The 7 Telecommuting Personalities Quiz & eBook

What are Some of the Benefits of Telecommuting?

How to Manage Millennials Virtually

The nature of management, as with most areas of today’s business, is constantly evolving and changing through the introduction of new work practices, schedules and technologies powering collaboration and communication among teams. In particular, the adoption of video and web conferencing technologies is empowering the new era of the remote manager, where leaders and their direct reports may not be in the same city, state or even country!

Millennials, the largest generation currently in the workforce today, are tech-savvy, social creatures and can respond well to remote leadership, provided the proper tools are in place. I, for example, am a Millennial with a remote manager and the experience has been flawless thanks to near-daily face-to-face interactions with my manager over iMeet®.

Here are some best practices for virtually managing your teams:

Be Attentive but Don’t Smother
One of the biggest concerns of remote managers is being able to check-in regularly and ensure that their direct reports are actually working and that they’re receiving all of the attention and instruction that they need. It’s important, especially early on, to build trust and regularly reach out to your employees to understand their unique work styles and what, if anything, they need from you.

Millennials in particular crave mentorship but don’t want to be smothered or feel like they’re being constantly “checked up on.” Over time, develop a strategy of reporting and communication so that you can be apprised of your reports’ progress and needs while simultaneously helping them feel accomplished and effectively lead.

Understand and Embrace Technology
Obviously remote management entails a technology component, even if it’s just a phone call or an email. However, these types of old-school interactions are lost on Gen Y, who far prefer texting and Facebooking to picking up the phone.

In order to really engage your direct reports virtually, you need to engage them in an intuitive, personal and social technology environment that allows you to build rapport and develop trust even across long distances. The high-definition video, personalized backgrounds and profile pictures and social media integration of iMeet makes it a perfect tool for remote managers and their Millennial reports. And employees of all generations are becoming increasingly comfortable with video in all aspects of business. In fact, 66% of job candidates prefer to use video during the interview process; they’re comfortable with the technology before you even hire them!

Best of all, iMeet features a suite of mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, keeping both managers and direct reports connected even while on-the-go.

Share, Educate, Inspire
In a recent Forbes article on the qualities of a modern manager, author Jacob Morgan wrote, “Today managers cannot believe in hoarding information but in sharing information and collective intelligence.” A culture of sharing, both personally and professionally, is vital to building trust and rapport between managers and direct reports. Whether it’s a best practice you’ve developed over the years, vital business intelligence or just a story about your family’s recent vacation, opening up to your reports makes them feel included in business decisions and more engaged and connected to you as a leader.

Millennials, the generation of Facebook and Twitter, are a sharing culture, and feeling that connection with their managers, particularly remote ones, is a vital element to effective virtual management.

For more tips and insights on remote workers, download PGi’s free eBook!

How to Present Benefits Orientation to Employees That Doesn’t Put Them to Sleep

Open enrollment for healthcare benefits, an annual occurrence for almost any organization of all sizes and industries, is a busy time for Human Resource departments. It’s a period when employers set aside time to educate employees on group benefits that are available. The primary goal is to ensure employees have all the information they need to make informed decisions on which healthcare and related benefits are the right fit for their families and budget.

This process can often be complex and confusing, and effective communication is vital to ensure its success. Many of today’s global companies face the challenge of finding the best way to communicate this information to associates who may be located all over the world.

PGi found a multi-faceted solution to this challenge by creating a unique and interactive experience using iMeet and GlobalMeet. Karrie Andes, PGi’s Sr. Benefits Manager, wanted to create a virtual health benefits fair to further engage associates and make it more convenient to participate.

The challenge
Karrie was responsible for ensuring that PGi associates fully understood the various plans and all the information presented. There was a great deal of new and important information to share—including a new high deductible consumerism plan, a new wellness program and various free benefits that weren’t previously offered as a result of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Engaging associates can be difficult enough, but Karrie’s challenge exponentially increased by needing to reach associates who were located in 36 different states, 25 percent of whom worked from home. Karrie needed to customize her communications plan according to her workforce. Not to mention, Karrie only had two months to plan when most companies typically have six months or more to communicate consumer-driven health plans.

Karrie’s communications plan
Knowing she couldn’t bombard PGi associates with daily messages without being ignored, Karrie selected specific dates to send out reminders and notices. She also sent postcards to the homes of employees to vary the communication media.

Karrie knew she had to make open enrollment more fun and interactive to better engage employees. As a result, she implemented various quizzes throughout the process. Answers were scattered throughout PGi’s intranet site and winners were offered gift cards and other prizes.

Instead of simply listing benefit information in a traditional boring handbook, Karrie created a new handbook with bright colors, simpler language and incorporated the PGi Guy as the benefits mascot. Also included was a glossary page that defined key terms frequently used in consumer-driven plans.

The virtual fair
Creating a virtual experience eliminated the need for travel and made it convenient for all associates to participate—including those who work from home. Karrie created iMeet rooms where vendors were present to answer employee questions. Links for each vendor room were sent out to the workforce with a schedule. Employees could easily click and visit with various benefit vendors at their leisure.

Using iMeet’s “file folder” feature, vendors were able to store documents or videos so attendees could easily gather information. Those who missed the event were able to download communications at a later time.

Additionally, Karrie hosted 22 webinars during a two week period to help make sure everyone fully understood what PGi was offering—including a few late night sessions so spouses could join, too. She also incorporated PGi’s GlobalMeet web conferencing tool, using its screen share option to access and navigate benefit websites, which helped employees better understand what type of plan they needed. During the last day of open enrollment, HR had an iMeet room for several hours to assist with last minute enrollment questions.

Even though open enrollment is over, Karrie continues to follow up with employees who enrolled in the high deductible plan every quarter. Through GlobalMeet, she holds a virtual roundtable where employees can discuss any comments or questions they may have. She takes notes and sends them to all enrollees.

Advice from Karrie
Karrie noticed that sometimes associates were shy and didn’t seem to want to ask questions. As a result, she began approaching meetings with more of a personal approach. She used her family in examples and humor in her presentations. It helped employees feel more comfortable and the sessions became fun and interactive.

“I never would have been able to complete such a significant feat without the virtual tools PGi has to offer,” says Karrie. This virtual fair proves that HR can use iMeet for much more than just global recruiting.

Every year, we all must participate in open enrollment and reeducate ourselves on the benefits our company offers. If the workforce is evolving, wouldn’t it be nice if our various processes evolved too? It could help keep employees more engaged—and awake.

Would you like to read more tips on how you can improve productivity and collaboration in your human resources department? Visit PGi’s Learning Space where you can explore more articles specifically discussing the many trends impacting HR.

Telecommuting Advice from HR Pros in the Home Office Trenches

For most businesses, the Human Resources department holds the keys to the telecommuting car. As more and more people work from home at least part time (approximately 30 million Americans, according to Global Workplace Analytics), HR teams are working constantly to manage telecommuting policies and pair remote workers with the tools they need to succeed. And as many HR teams are located in various locations or work from home themselves, we asked PGi HR professionals Kim Pettibone and Julie Johnson how they manage their own remote team and policies for the company as a whole.

Blakely: How do you work as a team from different locations?

Kim: One of the best tips I got from a book, “Knights of the Tele-Round Table,” is not to assume that if you are not hearing anything that everything is okay. I try to make sure I communicate in some form throughout the day, week, etc. My general rule of thumb is if it is taking more than two emails to gain clarity, understand or resolve something, I either schedule a virtual meeting or call the person. Our fantastic web conferencing service iMeet® has really changed things for us all, as well. The old adage that pictures say a thousand words is so true. We keep updated on what is going on in each other’s lives through our iMeet bio pictures. We share a lot of laughs and memories through our pics.

Julie: Our team stays connected by having weekly iMeet and GlobalMeet® online meetings. We also work on projects together (onboarding, interviewing, policy management, etc.) using iMeet and GlobalMeet. They really do make the world smaller, so it seems as though we are just down the hall instead of thousands of miles away.

Blakely: What technology makes telecommuting possible?

Julie: Laptop, tablets, smartphones and, of course, iMeet and GlobalMeet, which allow us to interview candidates face to face virtually. Not only do we use iMeet to meet with candidates one on one, but we also use the technology to conduct group interviews and virtual open houses where candidates can stop by to visit with HR, hiring managers and trainers. We also use VirtualEdge®, our applicant tracking system and PGiLife (internal community) to stay connected.

Kim: I tell people inside and outside the company ALL the time that I don’t know how anyone does business without our tools. Mobility and availability are the key operatives. The funny story about this is that you can count on the following sequence to occur: You are showing as busy/in a meeting, the IM pops up, then an email, then a call to your office phone, which goes to voicemail, then your cell phone rings and NOW the new add is that you get an iMeet or GlobalMeet invite. I have to laugh sometimes, but honestly, someone (from HR) is typically online and can help.

Blakely: How do you keep the human element within HR when you can’t meet face to face?

Julie: We do try to meet in person at least once or twice a year, but when we can’t meet face to face, we use online video conferencing to keep the face to face connection.

Kim: Well, this may be a trick question, but there are no barriers to face-to-face connections now. The principles of being human, regardless of the medium, are the same.

Blakely: Advice for fellow telecommuting HR specialists?

Julie: Create a home office that is away from your home living space, schedule your day, limit distractions where possible, try to maintain a work/life balance and enjoy the flexibility that telecommuting brings.

Kim: Don’t let yourself become too much of a hermit. If you find that you are not talking and meeting with people as much, make sure you build in time to stay connected. I spent a lot of years commuting 50-plus miles every single work day. I find that I now I sometimes don’t want to drive two miles to the grocery store. Strive to keep your personal and professional space separate. It is very convenient to keep working and sometimes you just have to shut the door and walk away. I’m very fortunate that I work in a telecommuting arrangement, as well as being onsite part-time. There are times when I may be in a bit of a funk, and I find connecting with people live reenergizes me, so it is all about the balance.

Blakely: Advice for HR teams who are implementing a telecommuting policy?

Julie: Make sure you have the tools and technology in place to make telecommuting possible, schedule regular meetings to stay connected and make it a priority to keep the human connection with both internal and external customers.

Kim: Like most policies, just think through the things you might take for granted. Most of the time HR pros have a lot of papers around that may be private or confidential. At the office, you have locked filing cabinets, so make sure you duplicate it at your telecommuting office, as well. I keep historical files in my file cabinet at the office. It has always just made sense to me, but building this into the policy may be a good idea. Although we hope we don’t need to withdraw a telecommuting arrangement, like most things, you will want to build in the flexibility to change the arrangement based on business needs.

To learn more about how Kim and Julie utilize video conferencing, web conferencing and audio conferencing technologies to manage talent and build great remote teams, download the free white paper: Online Video Recruiting Helps HR Streamline the Hiring Process.

About Kim Pettibone, PHR: Kim is the Human Resources and Talent Management Director at PGi, where she’s worked for nearly 17 years. With over four years telecommuting for the company, Kim is a leader in utilizing virtual meetings technology, like iMeet and GlobalMeet, to acquire, retain and train new employees right from her home office.

About Julie Johnson: Julie is a sales recruiter at PGi, responsible for bringing in the best talent in audio conferencing and online meetings sales in the world for nearly 16 years. As a telecommuter herself for over 7 years, Julie is pivotal in helping PGi sales teams in over 20 countries connect, perform and exceed sales expectations through virtual sales methodologies and technologies.

Love Your Office, Wherever It Is: Telecommuting, Cubicle or Flex Working

The Work from Anywhere phenomenon is upon us. With the evolution to in the cloud mobile computing tools and remote business applications, we can pretty much work anywhere — anytime. Today’s business world has digital nomads traveling the seven seas, telecommuters at home in pajamas and traditional cubicle dwellers. The trick to worklife success is decking out your environment so you can love your office, wherever it is.

Cubicle Nation

  • Make your cubicle personal. The three walls of your office cubby are your home away from home 2,000-plus hours every year. But it doesn’t have to be all dust and brown walls. Decorate your cubicle to improve your morale and spark fun conversations with customers. Here are some tips to decorate your cube.
  • Turn on your webcam. Today’s employee communities are spread all over the world and traditional office workers miss out on personal, face-to-face interactions with customers, colleagues and vendors. But by just turning on your webcam in a video conference solution like iMeet, cubicle workers can make better personal connections, improve productivity and become virtually mobile — all from the cube.
  • Take a break — digitally. Cubicle work is tricky. It’s incredibly simple to lapse into a cubicle comma, waking up from computer-staring to realize you missed lunch. Office success and happiness comes from taking a break – and cyberloafing is the new productivity boost. Ask your boss and IT department to let you jump on Facebook or hit up that online shoe sale — after all, social media is the new (healthier) smoke break.

Occupy Home Office

  • Get into a groove. In stark contrast to the Cubicle Nation, home office workers — aka teleworkers — can fall into a comfortable trap by sleeping in, hanging out in their PJs and alienating themselves from the outside world. For work-at-home success, don’t! Set your alarm, shower, don business casual gear and connect with your teammates every day.
  • Set the professional stage. As web conference calls and video conferencing become more popular, the old ratty hair and sweats days are over — and it’s for the best. If you don’t have a specific room appointed as an office, find a quiet, well-lit, uncluttered spot in your home to be your “office,” complete with desk, computer and other accoutrement. And use technology to your advantage, from mobile apps, online meetings tools and VPN applications.
  • Call a timeout. Every teleworker should demand a Bill of Rights to avoid getting stuck in the 24-hour office news cycle. Your office phone is your home phone. Your email is just right there. Stop! Call a timeout — you deserve it as much as your cubicle brethren. Take a walk, chat up your coworkers and make every weekend a vacation — no work allowed.

Road Warriors

  • Simple, social, mobile. Digital nomad success is all about having all the right tools to do your job from anywhere — and it all has to fit in your travel bag. As PGi digital nomad Cora Rodenbusch says, “What was once a nice-to-have is now a must-have-to-keep-my job necessity.” Check out her fave simple, social and mobile tool for connecting with anybody, anywhere, on any device: GlobalMeet.
  • Road warriors snag an hour of quality WiFi time wherever and whenever they can get it. Knowing the coffee shop rules makes it easy to enjoy some quality Internet time and even a cappuccino.
  • Take the “work” out of your vacation. It’s easy to slip into the working groove during evening and weekend sightseeing in your current time zone. While workations are a great way to balance work and fun when you’re on the road, make sure you take some time to relax.

Three Telecommuting Tips for Global Communications and Social Business

PGi’s social community manager Cora Rodenbusch is journeying around the world in a year-long telecommuting experiment. In the PGi Blog, she shares Digital Nomad Tip: Three Rules for Today’s Global Team as she looks for new, better ways to communicate with colleagues across the world.

When it comes to businesses who are also global and have intercultural and continental teams, Cora has three rules:

1. Take advantage of overlap time: With time changes, someone who has colleagues, vendors and customers all over the world will receive email, phone calls and more 24 hours per day.

2. Respect the Big D: Meeting deadlines, in the local country’s time zone, is vital to maintaining customer, colleague and managerial satisfaction while telecommuting abroad.

3. Embrace the facts: Every culture is different so instead of wondering what’s what, just come out and ask them. Communication is vital and Cora’s tips for finding better virtual tools for face-to-face meetings make a difference when connecting with people in different global locations.

Did you like this article? For more like it, visit the PGi Blog, where Meetings Experts share industry news, advice and thoughts about telecommuting and global corporate communication strategies.

Carbon Footprint Part 1: Impact of Driving on Corporate Sustainability Practices

With the rising concerns over environmental sustainability, PGi assesses the impact of driving on corporate sustainability practices and our planet with Carbon Footprint Series Part 1: Impact on Driving. As you create a strategy to reduce your environmental impact and go green, one of the simplest ways to begin is make better decisions when its comes to driving.

1. Telecommuting: Work from home, telework, coworking or flexible working

2. Alternative transportation: Public transportation, car sharing and carpooling

3. Hybrid vehicles and fuel-efficient cars: Electric, ethanol and other gasoline alternatives

4. Driving smarter: Sudden acceleration, breaking, air conditio ning use and more.

Learn more about the best ways to alter your driving habits, choices and tools to reduce your carbon footprint and save the planet.

Did you like this article? For more like it, visit the PGi Blog, where our Green Meetings Expert shares news, advice and thoughts about the environment and our impact.

Image courtesy of Green Liter.

How to Transform Remote Workers Into Collaborative Teams

Perhaps one of the largest problems effecting businesses large and small today is developing processes to unify a remote workforce. According to a recent Ipsos study, approximately 17% of global workers are telecommuting on a “regular basis.” With a growing population of non-traditional office workers, businesses are capitalizing on the many benefits of telecommuting, like enhanced productivity, reduced costs and modern work culture. Yet, the struggle to create a virtual work environment that fosters collaboration and creativity continues to be a pain point for companies everywhere. So how can you transform remote workers into collaborative teams?

Communication, communication, communication.

In a 2010 Workplace Psychology article, Steve Nguyen lists eight common problems faced by teams:

1. Absence of team identity

2. Difficulty making decisions

3. Poor communication

4. Inability to resolve conflicts

5. Lack of participation

6. Lack of creativity

7. Groupthink

8. Ineffective leadership

With remote teams, many of these issues stem from a central focal point: you don’t “work” together. And this new way of working causes strains that cause these eight problems to crop up more frequently within the telecommuting population. Regular PGi telecommuter Lea Green wrote, “I soon realized that working apart from my officemates for a solid week caused me to feel isolated, out of the loop.” Green, and many other telecommuters across the globe, solve this problem with active communication plans.

Create a communication plan:

  • Setting the tone for your remote, collaborative team is vital. In a study by Organization Science, leaders with exuberant, positive and motivation first messages set the tone that lasts throughout the team’s existence. After that first message, make sure your tone continues throughout every team communication, whether it’s a “How are you doing” to “Deadline approaching on XYZ project.”
  • Collaborate with your team and team members for group and individual communication plans. Read this Learning Space article, How to Telecommute and Manage Teleworking Employees, for collaboration tips and even a Communication Style quiz to help you development tailored communication plans for your team.

Tear down the social barriers.
The most effective, productive teams — office or remote — build strong trust bonds that extend beyond the purely business realm. In your very first communication, establish that you’re interested in your remote workers beyond their tactical use. By helping them feel like a human being, not just an email address, you connect your virtual workers with you and with each other.

Great tools for social communication:

  • iMeet video conferencing: Collaborative meetings technology that enables meaningful, human collaboration online with up to 15 webcams, interactive video streaming, social media integration, collaborative note taking, screen share and more. Try it free for 30 days.
  • Instant messaging: While IM could potentially be disruptive to the flow of work, encourage your team to have IM “open office” hours, where they can chat freely with the rest of your team.
  • Social media outlets: In this Learning Space article, Team Building Tips to Improve Collaboration, Innovation and Productivity, learn how social media enables your team to connect and build trust beyond the “office.”
  • Intranet: PGi recently shared the benefits of its global social business tool, PGiLife, an employee-only website built with all the tools needed for online collaboration — discussion forums, document collaboration, internal blogs, HR updates, product management and more. To read their story, click here.
  • GlobalMeet web conferencing: Want to go the traditional communication route? Try GlobalMeet, which takes old-school web conferencing into the modern era with social, easy to use features like Auto-Connect audio (phone, mobile or VoIP), active talker webcam video, one-click screen sharing and great polling features. Try it free for 30 days.

Encourage productive downtime.

One of the dangers of remote work is what I call tunnel vision. You’re sitting at home alone with nothing but your laptop to keep you company, and you can find yourself sucked into spreadsheets, PM tools, Outlook and work, work, work. No lunch breaks, no Happy Hour. These office traditions are known for sparking creativity and innovative, and it is incredibly important that you encourage this “productive downtime” within your remote teams.

Ideas for remote team building:

  • Coffee shop meetings: With our huge global WiFi network, your workers can pretty much go to any neighborhood coffee shop and connect to your online meeting. Schedule “coffee meetings” and send your workers gift cards so they can share a cup of Joe and brainstorm outside the home office.
  • Rent-an-Office: If you have teleworkers within 3-hours driving distance, encourage them to meet once every month and spend a few days together at a coworking office. These spaces are designed to be temporary homes for digital nomads and teleworkers, so just rent a couple spots to foster collaboration and trust among your team members.
  • Hashtag Party: Twitter is fantastic for building a back-and-forth conversation on any given topic, also called hashtag parties. Start one with your team members to create an ongoing brainstorm session — just remember that it’s public, so other people can see and interact with your brainstorm.

Collaborate, rinse and repeat.
Not every communication plan, social tool or coworking space will work for your team — set this expectation with your team from the very beginning. Collaboration happens when every team member respects and trusts their coworkers to bring in new ideas, hold their own weight and be excited about the tasks at hand.
These ideas are a great start to building a remote team that holds positive collaboration at the top of its priorities. What ideas have worked for your remote team? Anything that fell flat on its face?