I saw a news clip about the rise in telecommuting on CBS the other day and I echoed many of the sentiments from my fellow telecommuters. I also have a confession to make, what I looked forward to the most was the ability to wear sweatpants to the “office.” The first week or two I would go to my closet each morning grinning as I bi-passed my slacks and skirts en route to my sweatpants drawer.

However, I quickly learned that getting ready in the same way I would when going in to an office, was very important for my “workday” mindset. Now being fair, I can’t say that I put those nice slacks and skirts on everyday, but blouses paired with yoga pants was a definite step up.

That was just one lesson I have learned about effective telecommuting. Here are a few others:

Location Is Key:
Having a designated office, or at the very least a designated office area is imperative for productivity. Having a place that I can go to and close the door, is an effective way to keep outside distractions at bay. Creating a professional work environment also helps increase my self-discipline during office hours.

Visibility:
Being online and available during work hours is another component that is very important when telecommuting. Since I work for a collaboration company that means being online and available for instant messaging, phone, and video calls. This visibility and ability to have spontaneous or informal conversations also creates the feeling of being in an office.

Regular Communication:
Along with visibility, comes regular communication. Routinely speaking to colleagues on video mitigates the “social isolation” challenge that some remote employees feel. Communicating often, particularly via video conferencing, increases productivity by allowing me to brainstorm and collaborate face-to-face.

Earning Trust:
Regular communication, increased productivity, and consistent office hours all help in earning and maintaining my manager and coworkers’ trust. Mutual expectations between both a manager and remote employee, along with other team members, are essential for successful telecommuting.

Taking Breaks:
Another important lesson I have learned while telecommuting is the importance of taking breaks. Although I am not very good at putting this piece in to practice, getting out of the “office” and taking a lunch break or running an errand helps increase productivity by giving your brain a chance to relax. Plus, it helps reduce the feeling of never leaving your home.

These lessons have all helped me create a successful telecommuting strategy. Although working from home is not for everyone; many folks, including myself, have found increased productivity and an improved quality of life by being able to telecommute.

Collaboration means different things to different people. But at the end of the day it’s all about connecting people and giving them the ability to work together. The need for these types of connections continue to grow as workforces become more global and dispersed.

When people are connected they can share ideas, brainstorm on new initiatives, collaborate on deliverables and so much more.

We created the below infographic to highlight the many forms that collaboration can take, what some of the benefits are, where collaboration happens and the tools available.

Organizations are investing in collaboration tools and environments as the importance becomes increasingly prevalent. Not to mention, many organizations have recently started to break down walls (figuratively and literally) in offices. Companies are eliminating office spaces and creating open floor plans to facilitate interaction among colleagues.

Physical spaces, namely conference rooms, where employees can gather to work on deliverables or projects are necessary components to facilitate collaboration. However, since these rooms are shared resources, scheduling is necessary to make sure meetings don’t interrupt each other. This can be frustrating for teams who want to meet spontaneously.

With that in mind, huddle spaces or teaming rooms are being implemented in more and more organizations. What are they? Simply, a huddle space is an area within a company where a group of people can come together and collaborate; whether it is the corner of a room or open space near the cafeteria. These spaces are generally unscheduled resources and are available on a first-come first served basis.

The make-up of a huddle space varies significantly across organizations, but here are a few examples of solutions we have seen:

The Content Sharing Space:
These spaces are built around an LED TV mounted on a simple floor stand/cart. Attached to the unit is a wireless content sharing component that allows participants to attach a small device to their laptops and easily share their screen with the click of a button. Up to four participants can see their content on the screen at the same time, making it easy to compare work and collaborate on deliverables. A large professional services firm has implemented these content sharing stations in hallways and other open spaces throughout their office.

The Video Room, Everywhere:
When it comes to deploying video conferencing, a choice usually has to be made about what rooms and which employees to equip. This is due to both the cost involved and the scalability of infrastructure need to make video work. A media firm decided that they didn’t want to make an investment in higher-end video room systems and instead chose to go with desktop video software (that can be scaled to very large numbers). They simply took a small television cart and equipped each one with a PC and webcam. The result was a low cost video conferencing system that could be easily placed into any room or huddle environment.

The Web Conferencing Room
Web conferencing solutions, such as WebEx and GoToMeeting, provide functionality around content sharing, white boarding, chat, and some video conferencing. Many organizations have chosen to use web conferencing across their entire enterprise as a means of collaborating. One major manufacturer realized the importance of giving as many people as possible the power to connect, both remotely and in the same room, and implemented a web conferencing room solution. For the hundreds of meeting spaces that they have not equipped with video, they have implemented a low cost solution that allows employees to walk into a room and immediately join a web session. From there, individuals can work together in the room and connect with remote team members.

The above examples only scratch the surface of the concept of the huddle room. Ultimately, these solutions are about untethering collaboration from a finite space and making it possible for employees, both those in a local office and remote, to collaborate on an ad-hoc basis without having to schedule static resources and without a huge investment.

This Week in Collaboration

September 13th, 2013 | Posted by Danielle Downs in Industry News - (0 Comments)

This-week-in-collaboration

Welcome to our bi-weekly recap of the weeks’ best articles surrounding collaboration. 

1. Mobile Video Collaboration

Cisco explains what they are doing to better their infrastructure and technology to better suit mobile video needs. Those needs include high quality audio, video, and application sharing.

2. Video conferencing for your business

This article explains to some of the use cases and benefits of using video conferencing as opposed to audio conferencing for meetings.  It also briefly speaks to the different visual collaboration tools available.

3. Polycom enables Green Cross International 20(th) Anniversary Earth Dialogues Conference to Deliver Interactive, Live Broadcast from the United Nations

Details about how Green Cross International used Polycom video technology to stream their Earth Dialogue event. Using this technology allowed Green Cross to over 1,000 participants to view and interact from all over the globe.

4. The Latest Business Productivity Technology Comes From…Surprise…Video Conferencing

Interesting article about how advancements in video conferencing technology are creating a better video experience that is increasingly flexible and easy to use.

5. Can BYOD lift the IT support burden?

BYOD strategies tend to make IT folks cringe but this insightful piece explains how BYOD can actually reduce the burden on IT. However, it also states how certain boundaries and limits need to be taken in to consideration to ensure successful implementation.

The benefits of visual collaboration are expansive and cross just about every job function and industry. European retail giant Kingfisher recently sat down for a Cisco case study to discuss how collaboration technologies have helped overcome challenges in their supply chain,  improving profitability and shortening product development cycles.

One of the biggest challenges Kingfisher faced was how to connect direct sourcing suppliers located in Asia, with buyers and quality control teams located in Europe.  Not only was travel time consuming and expensive, the entire product design process was lengthy and cumbersome as people had to physically handle product prototypes, artwork or packaging before providing feedback.

As a result, Kingfisher decided to implement Cisco Telepresence systems in six locations across Europe and Asia. The business case was undeniable. It was calculated that 85% of products could be physically taken into one of these rooms which would help “take weeks, even months off of time to market, resulting in millions of pounds of additional revenue,” according to Richard Oats, Synergies Director at Kingfisher.

The results have been just as remarkable. Rapid and effective problem solving is accelerating products’ time to market, along with helping cut costs and increase revenues.  For example, a team in charge of developing a range of power tools is able to meet frequently and on very short notice to address any issues which keeps the project moving forward.  Additionally, Kingfish has been using video to standardize procurement practices by allowing buyers from all of the operating companies to collaborate with each other.

Watch the video below for more details on how video has helped improve Kingfish’s bottom line.