What technologies are essential for effective telework?
Some form of remote work is likely here to stay, even as the worst of the pandemic seems to be over. But employees need the right technologies if they are to remain productive.
Telework, as a way to describe working remotely, is a pre-internet term that is akin to the term call center for customer service. Both harken to a time when telephony was the most important communications tool, either for getting work done or interacting with customers.
A lot of how people communicate has changed since those early internet days, but telework is still widely used as a synonym for working from home (WFH), a practice that gained considerable traction in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
This was a new way of working for many people, and while telephony remains central to teleworking, home-based landlines are becoming more the exception than the rule. To telework productively, other tools are needed. What technologies are needed for effective telework? Here are three must-haves.
1. Reliable broadband. Cloud is the key method for businesses to support a decentralized workforce, especially since many communications applications and platforms reside in external data centers. WFH is difficult to support with premises-based technologies, and this is a key reason why cloud adoption soared during the pandemic. Instead of accessing communications applications either from a hard drive or hardware device, users receive them as a service from the cloud -- hence the term unified communications as a service (UCaaS).
These platforms are becoming the standard for most of the tools workers need to be productive, so the starting point for WFH is having reliable broadband. Unfortunately, this is not a given for all home workers, so for businesses that embrace teleworking, this should be the first checklist item. In some cases, workers will need to upgrade their broadband service -- possibly subsidized by the employer -- but for others, reliable broadband options don't exist, in which case telework will be especially challenging.
2. Current smartphone. This may seem like a nonissue, but for full-time teleworkers, smartphone usage will likely spike. One reason is that, in the absence of a home landline or a company-provided business line, the smartphone may well become the default option for telephony. Second, for teleworkers living in tight and crowded quarters, a dedicated, quiet workspace may not always be available.
To maintain workflow continuity, workers may find it necessary to go elsewhere, whether it's at home, outside or even in the car. Not only does WFH place greater demands on the smartphone, but the apps required -- in particular bandwidth-intensive services, such as video, browsing or file sharing -- will require phones equipped with horsepower sufficient to access those tools. High-resolution cameras and screens are another important factor.
3. Current computer. The performance requirements cited for smartphones are even more applicable here, as desktops and laptops are the endpoints where most work gets done. As with most smartphones, these devices will usually be personal, which means access capabilities will differ. Unlike the office, where most devices are standard for all and powered by a high availability network, teleworkers must understand what their home computers can support on an everyday basis.
An up-to-date computer is critical because current models are equipped with the processing power needed for UCaaS, as well as other cloud-based applications. Not only that, but they will support multichannel work modes with a decent webcam, high-resolution screen and HD quality audio. With so much work being done over video now, an older PC won't cut it, and it may also require workers to add peripherals like webcams and speakers, adding further cost. This won't be necessary with new models, and given the affordability of notebooks, all teleworkers should be able to have the hardware they need to make them productive.
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