Taking work home with you was once a sign that your work/life balance was dangerously out of, well, balance. Now, working from home has become one of the most desired perks of the modern workforce–precisely because it has the potential to offer a better work/life balance.
In fact, recent research has found that flexible scheduling and the ability to work from home play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job. If you’re an employer looking to recruit from the Millennial generation, you’d better offer telecommuting work from home opportunities, because more than 90% say they want the option.
However, if you’re an employer and you want to capitalize on the remote work from home trend to lure the best young minds to your business, be aware that the arrangement comes with a warning–keep things simple. Communicating, coordinating, and building comradery across remote teams can become a tangle of missed messages and empty video conference meetings unless everyone is working through the same channels.
Luckily, there’s a new form of digital communication built to solve that very problem.
The Remote Work from Home Trend
The current boom in remote work, or telecommuting, stems largely from the simple fact that digital technologies and the internet have made it affordable and accessible. And it’s clear we are living in telecommuting boom times: in 2014, there were 26 U.S. companies operating with a 100% remote workforce, today there are more than 170. There’s even a National Work from Home Week–engineered by Logitech–that’s just entered its second year celebrating all things telecommuting.
Remote digital communication through text messaging and email has been with us for many, many years. Today, however, advanced digital technologies such as video conferencing, shared online documents and workspaces, and instant messaging platforms are simple enough to operate from smartphones and cheap enough to be well within reach of individuals. For instance, you can buy a state-of-the-art 4K webcam for around $200 and access a top-tier video conferencing platform for less than $15 a month.
Add that capacity to the expectations of the Millennial and Gen Z generations that have grown up surrounded by the all-access power of the internet and smartphones, and you have the perfect conditions for a work from home revolution.
Keep It Simple When Working from Home
According to some sources, that revolution is already upon us. Recent findings by Zogby Analytics suggest as much as 75% of the U.S. workforce will be mobile or regularly working away from the office by the year 2020.
Embracing this desire for telecommuting means a lot more than just turning out the office lights and sending everyone home. Once employees become telecommuters, they can’t patch over the holes in the corporate communications strategy through simple proximity and incidental conversation. Instead, there must be a coordinated and common platform for everyone to meet and cooperate through–and procedures, procedures, procedures.
Many companies have been too eager to embrace digital communication and a surprisingly high percentage have been left with a piecemeal strategy, even running as many as five different video conferencing platforms, most of which are incompatible with one another.
The trend toward virtual and online communication, however, has not gone unnoticed by the major tech companies. As a direct result of the need to connect remote and mobile employees, they’ve come up with, or are at least working toward, the perfect solution–workplace collaboration apps.
Working Alone Together with Workplace Collaboration
A workplace collaboration app is like a company’s own private Facebook network, except it’s designed to enhance work, rather than distract from it. Basically, it’s a central hub that ties together all the communications an employee will need to work with their peers. Linked instant messaging channels act as the backbone of the system and let everyone chat with everyone else who matters to them in real time. These systems have since evolved to include video conferencing, shared project checkpoints, scalable notifications, online document creation and sharing, and built-in email. It’s an entire office ecosystem online.
The concept was first championed by Slack, which was also the first widely adopted platform of this type, but it has been taken up in earnest by Microsoft, with its Teams platform. Other versions exist, including Facebook’s own Workplace by Facebook, but most are already seeking their own specific niches to escape Slack’s and Microsoft’s dominance.
What all these apps do best is keep things simple.
Everyone who enters the workplace collaboration hub uses the same messaging, video calling, and document sharing protocols. Everyone is connected to everyone else and is easy to find in a common database. Everyone can share and collaborate on live documents and ongoing projects with universal access. Every at-home device that suits the platform can therefore reach everyone else’s at-home device.
If you’re going to embrace the work from home philosophy and win over the savvy Millennials, that’s how to do it. Get everyone on the same system, using the same methodology. Once that common ground is established, the team and the overall company can communicate as they would within any old brick-and-mortar building–brief, quick messages go out as instant texts with notifications that pop up on the platform (and can be directed to a single co-worker or several via a group thread), casual conversation can coexist alongside workplace chatter, and every meeting can be face-to-face, thanks to video conferencing.
And, to top it all off, nobody has to get in their car at 7 a.m. and fight the morning traffic ever again.