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We’re not quite at the era of beaming in and out of the office every day (not enough dilithium crystals for that), but our technology has advanced enough to start changing the way we go to work. The mobile workforce of the future will work in a virtual computing environment from wherever makes the most sense for their needs, at home, in a shared office, or even in a park or coffee shop.

Now, when we say a virtual environment, we don’t mean putting on a special helmet and interacting with peers in a Tron-like space. We’re talking about cloud technologies that allow remote access to a desktop or server environment based entirely online. Rather than using an onsite server that hosts Office applications and other tools, a business will have all their necessary IT tools hosted in the cloud for them, and employees will simply log in using whatever device works best for them.

The more technology that is hosted in the cloud, the less a physical office is needed:

  • Hosted desktops allow far-flung colleagues to use the same applications as each other, doing work in a controlled computing environment tailored to a business’ unique needs.
  • File sharing hubs allow universal access to important documents and records, so collaboration is easier than ever.
  • Hosted VoIP telephone systems mean your employees can be part of a unified phone system for your business, which they can access on an office phone, their home computer, and even via an app on their smartphone. They’ll have an extension, access to conference bridges, official voicemail, and all the other features needed for a business phone system, wherever they need it.

The cloud is the perfect tool for encouraging remote collaboration, and many businesses are already starting to shift their work dynamic to take advantage of this. There are a lot of benefits that come from decentralizing your workforce:

  • No expensive physical office space required – your employees can work from home or wherever else suits them.
  • Avoid commute times or other potential delays to employees starting work.
  • Find the right employee for the job regardless of their physical location – you may live in Tampa, and your accountant may live in Nashville, and you can easily share the same files and work on the same projects.
  • Accommodate skilled workers who may be unable to easily leave their home, maybe because they have young children or they are disabled.

Now of course, this kind of environment won’t work for every business completely. A retail business, for instance, may still need a physical storefront with cashiers, even if they have a substantial web presence. But even this kind of business can allow remote work for certain tasks, especially financials. Any business can leverage this kind of dynamic to improve some aspect of their working environment.

So what are the drawbacks, and how do you mitigate them? Like any working relationship, a remote workforce is not perfect. You lose a lot of oversight that you would have with a centralized work environment like an office, and it can be difficult to keep productivity high and tasks on track if you’re not physically in the same room as your employees. Here are some strategies to consider in order to control your new dynamic:

  • Think about your organizational work flow and ensure that remote workers have defined duties so they know what their job is.
  • Maintain clearly established hierarchies, and ensure there is regular communication between managers and team members, taking advantage of different methods of communication for different opportunities:
    • Conference calls in the morning for team huddles,
    • Email and file sharing for assignments or collection of work,
    • And even instant messaging for check-ins throughout the day.
  • Create a set of standards and procedures for every member of a remote team so it’s clear how they are expected to complete tasks and send documents to where they need to go.
    • Include guidelines for posting, uploading, downloading, and editing files.
    • Consider any training that may be needed for cloud-based applications or mobile devices.
  • Above all else, consider the changes that remote work will create in the culture of your business. The role of a team manager changes when team members are not physically present, and it will be necessary to discuss how to maintain control over workflows while still enjoying the freedom that remote work grants.

Ultimately, we are not yet at a place where total remote work is practical or even possible for every business, but as cloud and mobile technology continues to advance, more options will become available to change the traditional work dynamic that has been the norm for so many years. Will your business be ready to evolve? Kyocera Intelligence can help you find out. Call us at (800) 875-8843 to discuss how your business can be ready to embrace the Future of Technology.