Monthly Archives: May 2013

What you need to know about Job Interviews via Video Conference

In some companies it’s already a common practice: The job interview via video conference. This article tells you what you should take into account as applicant as well as HR professional.

One can generally say that video conferences and tailored video conference services do pose a perfect setting to conduct job interviews with potential candidates. This way costs can be kept low and the process of making decisions within the selection of applicants can be accelerated enormously.

Especially international companies spend a lot of money on travel costs to invite potential candidates to their headquarters. It is for this reason that phone interviews are often a first point of contact to get to know the potential candidate. However, often these interviews cannot replace the personal getting to know each other and are at the cost of our scarcest good – time. Using video conferencing can save a lot of trouble here: A number of interviews can be conducted in short time beforehand and only a small selection will be invited on site.

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What you should consider as HR professional

Before conducting a job interview via video conference it is essential to be well prepared. A thoroughly organized video conference will leave not only a professional impression of the company, but also of its potential for innovation and the work of its HR department. Poor quality and technical problems on the other hand will leave the exact opposite impression on the candidate. It is therefore crucial to choose the right video conference services.

Before choosing a video conference service provider you should check the expert knowledge of the provider in question as well as the already existing video conference solutions within your company and the technical environment of the candidate. Ideally the provider offers so-called Video Conferencing Managed Services, meaning he will take care of setting up the equipment, checking the connection and of course managing the video conference connection during the actual job interview.

If your company has the respective facilities, these should also be used to conduct the job interview. A great advantage here is the mostly good quality and the connectivity of the video conference service facility over IP.

A job interview via video conference is also well suitable to involve more people, for example the branch manager, who dials in from his own office.

Potential candidates do not have any need of expensive equipment. Modern solutions can be operated with video conferencing software. An ordinary PC or Mac, a webcam, common headset and a stable Internet connection are sufficient. This way the candidate can participate in the interview via his or her own PC, notebook or even from smartphone.

 What you should consider as potential candidate

For many candidates participating in a job interview via video conference is a completely new experience, although the Generation Y is usually well acquainted with video chats and other Unified Communication solutions such as Skype and should not encounter problems. A professional manner of appearance in front of the camera is key, as it would be in a personal interview as well. Just before the actual interview the candidate should check what can be seen of his or her surroundings on screen. A messy desk or big piles of dirty laundry do certainly not leave the best impression.

During the conference the candidate should take care of a good positioning of the webcam and the ideal adjustment of the microphone. And a hint for the HR Professional: the printed CV or other documents should not cover the microphone if you are not using a headset.

Learn more about Video Conferences

More tricks of the trade for the ideal video conference etiquette can be found here on our blog. I am happy to hear from your experiences!

How To Maintain Security With Teleworking

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Padlock (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Advances in mobile technologies and networking have made it possible for more people to work in the convenience of their homes or outside the office, also known as teleworking. We can work anywhere – client offices, hotels, cafés, beach resorts, etc. This has made virtual companies possible and has made tapping talent from far away possible.

While it is convenient to work from different places, the devices you use are also vulnerable to malware and viruses. These things can also infiltrate your company network and these criminals can steal your company data. Smartphones and tablets are very susceptible to threats as they can easily be stolen. Your company may experience a lot of problems if your employees’ devices get comprised. Tighten your security with these tips.

Protect devices

Your first line of defence against cyber criminals are firewalls, antivirus software and strong passwords. In an ideal world, you should be able to bring your devices anywhere, connect to the Internet and do your work. That is just not the case in the real world as free Internet and public connections are very high risk. You also can’t prevent your employees from opening their personal mail and browsing the Internet especially if they are using their own devices.

Train your employees to regularly update their protective software or better yet, turn on auto-updates in the settings. Install encryption software in your devices too so you can prevent unauthorized people from accessing your data. You should also install a remote-wipe program in case the device gets stolen.

Use cloud applications

Cloud application providers have invested in robust security systems to keep your data protected. If you can’t invest in security software, use cloud applications instead. This is an affordable option for small businesses. If you need more specialized tasks, you can get them starting at $5. That’s not a bad investment especially if you can get peace of mind knowing that your data is safe. Remember to use strong passwords for your accounts.

Secure the company network

Your employees should be able to securely connect to your corporate network. The traditional system used is a Virtual Private Network or VPN that encrypts the employee’s internet traffic. It also has tools to make sure that remote computers have security patches. It can also monitor a machine for potential infections. There are different providers for this kind of security and you can surely get one that fits your budget.

Remote working gives both employees and the company a lot of benefits. The key is to be able to provide a secure working environment wherever your employees are.

VoIP is Perfect for Business Communication

In the past, the way to communicate was through snail mail and landline phone service. This was one of the major obstacles when conducting business. Mail is slow to arrive and phone lines are busy all the time. Suppliers and producers alike have to handle transactions over the phone and voice support alone is not enough to convey enough information. Today, there are VoIP service providers such as RingCentral that could make work easier and more efficient.

VoIP is now being dubbed as the future’s communication super technology and already today a part of  the Unified Communication Strategy of many enterprises. VoIP is the abbreviation of Voice over Internet Protocol. It makes your voice cross boundaries through the Internet. In any type of business, communication is the key to gain success. This of course entails the use of only the best modes of communication. So far, VoIP service is already gradually becoming a leader in this type of industry. It’s because it offers so many services and applications that landline and mobile phone services cannot.

voip-headset-logoVoIP is Easy to Use

If you know how to chat using the ones offered by email service providers, you would not have any problems learning how to use VoIP. Instructions are very easy to follow and even your employees will not have trouble toggling VoIP applications. You can use VoIP using your desktop computer, laptops, smartphone hybrids or have it directly connected to your analogue system. The best way to make use of this of course is from a computer-to-computer basis because calls will not take up any costs. 

VoIP is Very Flexible

Businesses are now making a switch to VoIP because it also offers an intra-office communication solution. Instead of each person or division having their own numbers, the employees are now required to have their very own VoIP account for easier inter-office communication. This is advantageous for the employees because they will not have to transfer desks to give necessary documents when they can just send these with the use of VoIP. It can also be used when sending and receiving messages to other people outside the office. This can also be used for outside communication. In fact, it is currently being used by businesses that have more than one office and can also be used to communicate with other business contacts such as investors, suppliers and clients.

 VoIP Offers More than Just Voice Support

VoIP is not just a service that mimics telephone conversations. It is far more progressive than that. If you have a webcam, you will be able to see the person you are speaking to, facilitating a video conference. You also have the capability to talk to multiple users if you wanted to and make it a multi-site-call. This can be an advantage if you are on vacation but need to be on call for business related activities. For example, you have a file you missed to endorse to a certain employee. VoIP can let you talk to this person and share that file at the same. What is more interesting is that text files are not the only types of documents you can share using VoIP. You can also send rich media files such as videos and audio. You can even attach a voice message using your email!

When you choose VoIP, you improve inter-personnel communication. Since people now are discovering the advantages of using the Internet when placing orders or building business contacts, you too can benefit by making yourself easily reachable with the use of VoIP and other Unified Communication technologies.

How Unified Communications Can Improve Your Business Strategy

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Unified Communications in Enterprises (photo by Victor1558)

More and more businesses are using advances in technology to further their reach and expand. A number of businesses are already familiar with Skype, and that tool has enabled businesses to contact clients and team members who may work from home at a seconds notice. Unified Communications have created a system that has all the benefits of Skype and incorporates other forms of communication too, making it the complete package.

What is Unified Communications?

Unification of communication systems can really give your business a competitive edge and enable you to keep all your forms of communication in one place, making it easy to maintain and man-manage on a day-to-day basis. It enables you to combine telephone and business data on one single network, and gives you the flexibility in your communication to combine and use voice, video and data in applications. You can also save and forward instant message streams, phone calls, faxes and emails, voicemail and video conference sessions as data files. This way, nobody is left out of the loop.

The data is encrypted to ensure that it cannot be obtained and fall into the wrong hands, giving you complete security when passing data across your network. If there is sensitive or important information being sent across, you can rest assured that it will stay in the appropriate circles, regardless of whether it is sent in the form of an email, voice call or video.

How Can Unified Communications Improve My Business Strategy?

The name of the game here is ease of use and a lack of complication. When you have ten plates spinning, there’s a good chance that any could become neglected and fall. Unified Communications allows you to keep everything in order and in one place, meaning that one person can take care of everything if need be, and without any confusion or frustration. The team member can use a single phone number or handset and a unified inbox for all the available communications too. An easier life for your team is the ultimately goal for everybody, and this system provides it.

Cost Saving

Every business strategy needs a budget in place, and every business needs to know what costs are going to be made and saved by the strategy they put into place. Unified Communications save businesses a great deal of money by having all of your communications related outgoings being billed as one item. This makes it a great deal easier for businesses to set a budget and fill out a profit-and-loss. If a business can budget easier, it makes it a lot less difficult to plan ahead.

The systems are pretty inexpensive too, meaning that more small businesses are turning to Unified Communications so that they can save on a variety of systems they would have to set up individually and just focus on the one system that unifies everything, from voice, to email, fax and SMS.

Time is a valuable commodity when putting together a business strategy, and with a unified communication system in place, you can save time and money on training team members on how to use a variety of systems. Once you have a team member trained to a high standard on a unified system, you would have covered all channels of communication, which in turn will help keep your customer service to a high standard and improve efficiency.

Improving Customer Service

Every business strategy has to include ensuring that the customers are taken care of and that their issues and queries are dealt with quickly and effectively. A number of customers will make their complaints heard via social media, email, fax and by telephone contact, so it is essential that all businesses have a clear strategy for taking care of these customer service issues the moment they arise. With a unified communication system, a query or complaint will be noticed immediately, and can be actioned right away. It also takes away the possibility that a complaint or query could be missed by a team member, as it will be right in front of you on the system. With customers demanding a quick service, this form of communication system can see your customer satisfaction stats skyrocket. A quick response can be the difference between a happy customer and a dissatisfied one, after all.

The key points here are: Speed, efficiency and ease of use. There really is small room for error with a Unified Communication system. Your business strategy is designed to help the company move forward, improve and exceed what it was delivering before. Unified Communications could be the key ingredient to your business doing just that.

What is WebRTC? – Overview for Busy People

webrtc, logo, chat, bubble, shapes, colours, colorsNo other topic is roaming the news and social media as much as WebRTC these days. But what is WebRTC and what should it mean to you?

Today I would like to give you an overview around this trend and where it came from. In this article I would like to try out the “For Busy People” article format by consolidating all hot topics into quick facts to add value to you without getting side-tracked. I know you busy people are busy and so you can just skip the parts of the article that you are not interested in.

What does WebRTC stand for?

WebRTC means Web Real-Time Communication, so we are talking about ways to communicate without any delay, based on a web-browser, without the use of software that needs to be installed beforehand.

What is WebRTC?

WebRTC is an open framework for placing real-time communication components on web-pages and is controlled by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who are also taking care of other web-standards such as HTML, XML, CSS and others. WebRTC components could include methods such as VoIP, Instant Messaging (or just “chat”), video conferencing or a combination of these. Personally I would count WebRTC to the umbrella of Unified Communications, but the actual use of the WebRTC solutions depend on each enterprise.

Where does WebRTC come from?

WebRTC technology was first developed by Global IP Solutions (or GIPS), a company founded around 1999 in Sweden. In 2011 GIPS was acquired by Google and the W3C started to work on a standard for WebRTC. Since then Google and other major players in the web-browser market, such as Mozilla and Opera, have been showing great support for WebRTC.

How does WebRTC work?

The framework is based on HTML5 and JavaScript but does not utilise SIP or H.323 like other Unified Communication solutions. The signalling and transfer of data works over RTP and with an XMPP extension called “Jingle”. With the newly introduced JavaScript Session Establishment Protocol (JSEP) direct connections can be established without the need of a piece of hardware in the middle. Depending on the deployment audio, video and / or other data can now be exchanged to allow WebRTC to happen in your browser.

And for our firewall traversal specialists: WebRTC can do STUN, ICE, TURN, RTP-over-TCP and supports proxies. What else do you wish for?

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How does WebRTC work? – Click for larger pop-up

What does WebRTC mean to me?

Imagine the impact of 1,000,000,000+ endpoints. Not bad! This is the potential amount of endpoints talking to each other and making VoIP calls or even video conferences. Even though Microsoft is strongly pushing Skype for desktop video conferencing, they are also making sure that their Internet Explorer is ready to take on the WebRTC challenge.

But the missing link right now is: Will there be interoperability between WebRTC and other Unified Communication solutions? I believe the first developers, making both worlds compatible to each other will have edge.

Examples for WebRTC?

The possibilities are impossible to count. Especially in the age of BYOD everyone has their smartphone always ready and beyond that every notebook and desktop PC could participate in WebRTC. Here are some examples I could think of:

  • Customer service via video conference (the end of the service hotline?)
  • Working together on documents via web (web-collaboration beyond firewalls)
  • Smart-TVs allow you do do video conferences without infrastructure or service running in the back (if there’s a browser – there’s a way!)
  • Not interested in video conferences? Have a video diary! (takes only cloud storage and WebRTC)
  • WebRTC might change the face of Social Media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter completely if implemented (why not quickly talk about it?)
  • Instead of displaying phone numbers to your common window-shopper, provide a QR-code or a NFC space, so users can reach directly to you with their smartphone or tablet (we got a camera, a mic, a speaker – so let’s use them!)

Is there a WebRTC presentation?

You are lucky! Google has recently released a web-based presentation with a lot of interesting slides. I have also added a video below, for your to get some more details on WebRTC, Let me know of your thoughts!


Web Real-time communication – Google I/O 2013 – by Justin Uberti

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2HzZkd2A40&w=575]

LifeSize Smart Video now on Desktop and Mobile Devices

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Connect several devices with LifeSize Smart Video (Image by LifeSize)

Earlier today LifeSize, a division of Logitech, has introduced a change in their Smart Video portfolio. Smart Video is designed to simplify the video collaboration experience and usability. After they introduced their first Smart Video hardware endpoint solution, the Icon series, earlier this year, they are now revamping ClearSea to be part of the UVC platform.

ClearSea is a former Mirial solution that found a new home after Mirial was acquired by LifeSize. In the old days it required hardware infrastructure to run the product on licence base. Now LifeSize has turned the desktop, smartphone and tablet video solution into a part of their UVC platform, resulting in the service to be virtualised. This is a great addition to the more and more virtualised unified communications solution portfolio directly out of Austin, Texas.

Features

  • Unlimited amount of user accounts
  • Invite guests
  • Connect up to 5 devices with a single account
  • All logged in devices will receive an incoming video conference call
  • Smooth live transfer of calls between logged in devices
  • Add participants to a call
  • Synchronised and customisable directory
  • Full SIP and H.323 support

The UVC ClearSea solution will be available from today, starting at 1,199 USD MSRP. For more information please consult the datasheet, visit the LifeSize blog or go directly to the UVC ClearSea product page for a free 30-day trial.

About LifeSize

LifeSize is a pioneer and world leader in high-definition video collaboration. Designed to make video conferencing truly universal, our full range of open standards-based systems offer enterprise-class, IT-friendly technologies that enable genuine human interaction over any distance. Founded in 2003 and acquired by Logitech in 2009, LifeSize, with its commitment to relentless innovation, continues to extend the highest-quality video conferencing capabilities to anyone, anywhere. For more information, visit http://www.lifesize.com.


UVC ClearSea in Action
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4Ib8nmmoj8]

All New Viber: Cross-Platform Monster for Consumers

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Viber Desktop with all new features (Image by Viber Media Inc.)

Some of you might know Viber already and that they are  now also providing a solution for Windows and Mac based workstations. For everyone else here is a quick introduction to Viber:

What is Viber?

Viber is a cross-platform VoIP solution for consumers developed by Viber Media Inc. It was first introduced to iOS in December 2010. Since then they have been increasing support for other smartphone platforms such as Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nokia Symbian and Samsung Bada. Their app does not cost anything but the initial registration requires a SMS to be send for validating your phone number.

What’s new?

On May 7, 2013 Viber released software clients for Windows and Mac. So you are able to install the application on your computer or notebook and register with your phone number to synchronise contacts. When you are logged in with both your smartphone and a desktop client at the same time you can move any active call to the other device.

Features

So what value does it add to your unified communications environment? Here are some of the new (and some old) features that might come in handy:

Positioning

The Viber solution is clearly positioned in the consumer market and gained wide popularity among users in that category. So far I have not come across enterprises utilising Viber as part of their unified communications strategy. If you are using Viber for professional purposes please feel invited to share your experiences in the comment section below.

Competition

As the Facebook Chat app is currently tested for possible VoIP features and beta tested, Viber seeks to increase their solution portfolio to maintain market share and this release seems to be the result of that. Other in-direct competitors of consumer-based unified communication tools are solutions such as WhatsApp for instant messaging and Skype for video conferencing.

Possible Business Usage

If you and your social network connections list their smartphone number along with the social profile, and install the apps of such on their smartphone they will see each other on Viber. Being completely synchronised  they will be able to communicate via VoIP, video conference or instant message beyond their enterprises unified communications abilities. This should serve for non-critical communication only though, as consumer solutions might not be sufficient to match your organisations IT security policies.


The Viber Desktop Introduction Video

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEqS5W-KfRw]

Microsoft Lync 2013 – New Feature Overview

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Main Window

Are you planning to upgrade your unified communications IM client? Following up on the article “What Is Microsoft Lync?” by Mark Stubbles we would like to introduce you today to all new features of Microsoft Lync 2013.

In comparison the Microsoft Office Communicator (also known as OCS) had the look and feel of Windows XP, the Lync 2010 update brought it up to speed with the Windows 7 design and finally Lync 2013 has the looks of the Windows 8 and Office 365 environment. But of course there is much more under the hood than just eye-candy. I listed below a few of the new features that were most interesting to me.

Overview of new features in Lync 2013

Visual Features:

The main window has been optimized to provide better access and a more intuitive using of the application. The new tabbed conversation feature gets rid of having several chat windows open at the same time – so you can keep track of all your conversations in a single place and just have to browse through them. Similar to the tabbed browsing of Google Chrome you are also able to move a certain chat out of the tabbed conversations and provide them with their own window and naturally you can move it back into the tabbed conversation window.

And for everyone who would like to display the images and fonts larger they can easily adjust the display setup in the configuration of the client. This is not only a help to users with sight challenges, but also can be useful for a deployment on wall-mounted displays.

Easier Deployment:

The main Lync 2013 client and the Online Meeting add-in is now included in the setup program of Office 2013 so deployment on the software side has been made significantly easier, especially for large enterprises with many thousands of workstations.

However because this part has changed Microsoft has also changed how the group policy is deployed. Instead of working on the communicator.adm file to define policies, certain ADMX and ADML admin templates are provided along with Office Policy Administrative Templates to work on. For more information on this particular topic I suggest reading the Microsoft article on “Group Policy Settings for Lync 2013“.

BYOD Enhancements:

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Calling a Smartphone

With Lync 2010 the App for smartphone, there was only support for presence and instant messaging while the new Lync 2013 App for smartphones and tablets also supports Voice calls and mobile video conferencing over WiFi and cellular data connection alike. Regardless of the fact that many desk phones can be connected with your Lync client, utilizing Lync on smartphones and Lync on PCs within your organisation your permanently replace the requirement of having a separate hardware phone on your desk and cutting costs for invest and maintenance by enforcing unified communications technology. For a more detailed overview of the features for mobile Lync I recommend the “Mobile Client Comparison Tables” page by Microsoft.

The users accessing from non-corporate workstations via browser also get some good news. The Lync 2013 Web App for web-based conferencing received support for voice and high definition video conferencing devices. Meeting participants can also show their screens for collaboration or presentation and re-assign the presenter role to others – They get the full Lync 2013 meeting experience without having the software client installed on the machine.

Functional Features:

The Lync 2013 client can handle virtual environment better. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) fully supports audio and video devices, like a headset and a webcam, to be connected to the client even though you might be using a virtual machine such as a thin client or a differently re-purposed workstation. For more details on how to deploy the Lync VDI plug-in please check the Microsoft TechNet article.

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Microsoft Lync 2013 – Chat Room Integration

Another interesting new feature is the chat room integration (also known as persistent chat rooms or topic feeds). In older versions you were already able to create group conversations for multiple users to chat or hold a presentation for instance. In the new Lync 2013 however these can be promoted to be permanent and will be also available for others to be joined, including all the content that was added and when. It might not be applicable to all services and organisations, but this feature might the need for static email lists and adds a new dynamic way of sharing information and making such available for all. If you don’t want it to be available for all users, there is also the option to limit the visibility to certain users or user groups.

Also newly implemented is a feature that lets Lync 2013 automatically assign you with “presenting” status, to block incoming communication unless the sender is in an approved group. If you are a two-screen users however this is not automatically done for you, if you use the secondary screen as presenting space.

You may have made experience with previous versions of the client that you would like to keep a certain conversation up for reference but you need to restart the machine. What happens? The information is gone. In the new Lync 2013 once you are back booted up, the conversation comes back along with the content of the conversation, you held before rebooting. I found this to be quite the time-saver in those moments.

Improvements of already deployed functions:

  • Outlook Meeting Scheduling updated
  • Native Video Conferencing enhanced
  • Web App and Mobile App now support voice and video conferencing
  • Contact and card view was improved
  • Meeting participation functions were heavily improved for better collaboration

Have you tried Lync 2013 out yet? Missed your favourite new feature? I would be delighted to hear your opinion. Drop us your comment below!

Common Technologies Complicate The Telecommuting Debate

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Photo by Victor1558

Twitter and the blogosphere have been completely immersed in a fierce debate over the merits of telecommuting vs. coming into the office to work thanks to actions taken by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer a couple of weeks ago. With the adoption of new technologies, including widespread use of smartphones, video conference software, and VoIP PBX phone systems, how important is it to come into the office every day? The answer is: we’re not really sure. There are too many entries in the debate to read through, but here are a couple of the main arguments from each side:

I can be just as productive at home

The core of this argument lies in the technology that most professionals have at their disposal these days out of necessity. Most people have access to a broadband internet connection at any given moment, whether it’s in their home or the café down the street.  If a business invests in the proper IT, they can offer their employees a myriad of ways to connect to workers who are based at the office and fellow telecommuters. Thanks to unified communications tools in addition to even more advanced conferencing applications, employees can be “at the office” while in the comfort of their own home. This saves workers from being distracted by the day to day social goings on at the office, as well as the time suck that is the morning and evening commutes. With the addition of VoIP PBX phone systems that allow for “virtual” offices in any location, proponents of telecommuting see no real need to spend every day at the office.

Only an office can provide the collaborative atmosphere a business needs

Those on Mayer’s side think that even though there are these technologies available, nothing can replace the benefits of face-to-face interaction and socializing. Water cooler talk isn’t just about talking about last night’s football game. It’s also about brainstorming and hashing out strategies pertaining to the day’s projects. Working in the office is also about being able to have proper oversight when it comes to worker productivity. Bosses like Mayer want to foster a sense of community at the workplace so employees will feel like they’re a part of a team working towards a goal that everyone will benefit from.

Who’s right? 

It’s impossible to say who’s right. It comes down to management style and people’s individual personalities. Some people do their best work at home while others get hopelessly distracted. But with unified communications technology available, there’s no reason why people can’t alternate between the two. Working from home half the week and the office the other half might provide employees with the best of both worlds.

Do You Need A Policy For Your Remote Workers?

After Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has previously reaffirmed the ban on telecommuting, discussion spread across the social web. Not only potential remote workers and telecommuters are affected by such policies but als the employer. For those who cannot agree on her decision, we would like to give some pointers around the creation of a remote working policy and what you should consider.

A remote working arrangement can be a great way to increase your company’s perceived flexibility, and it’s particularly beneficial for parents of young children. Working from home makes it easier for employers to recruit globally, and to hire otherwise-qualified but physically disabled workers who wouldn’t be able to make it to the office. The arrangement that’s best depends on your company’s location, work type and culture; if you’re planning to allow some of your workers to operate remotely, you’ll need a sound policy. Below, you’ll learn more about remote working policies and the parts to be included.

Creating an Effective Policy

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to foster a productive environment. Making the switch to remote working can be difficult, because it requires that you give up some degree of control over that environment; after all, who’s to say that employees won’t game the system? How can you effectively supervise workers whom you don’t see each day? Before a remote working arrangement can be implemented, those questions need to be answered. The first step in implementation is to create a remote working policy, which is a set of guidelines for work-at-home employees. As you’re drafting your policy, keep the following ideas in mind.

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Telecommuting (Photo credit: jessamyn)

Will you Need Multiple Policies?

The first question you’ll need to answer is: Do you need two policies, or one umbrella policy? If at all possible, avoid having separate policies for in- and out-of-office workers. Separate policies can confuse workers and lead to unfairness and resentment. Put together a unified policy that amply covers the job’s basic requirements, but make it broad enough to allow workers to operate in the most efficient way.

Outline Your Expectations to Remote Workers

To ensure that your workers remain on-task, you’ll need to set forth some expectations. Employees like working from home because it offers greater flexibility, but you’ll still need to let them know that you expect work to be completed on a certain date. Allow employees to work from home, but establish deadlines and measure output so productivity stays high.

Assign Responsibility for Expenses

When drafting a work-from-home policy, you’ll need to assign responsibility for business expenses. With remote working, the boundaries between work and home life tend to blur. Do you buy employees’ office supplies if they work from home? Do you change your mileage-tracking method if employees begin their commute from home? Your company should already have a policy for in-office workers, but you should have guidelines in place for remote workers as well.

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Barry Mulcahy Makes His Point (Photo credit: topgold)

Technology Toolset and Unified Communications

To provide your remote workers with an environment close to or equal to what they have in the office, you need to consider the technology that they will require. You should liaise with the IT department around your unified communications solution that you have in place and make sure it can be utilised from a remote position as well. If you are planning unified communications strategy and roadmap, you should make sure to consider your remote workforce as well.

Data Security

One of the largest remote-working challenges is keeping sensitive data secure. Working from home allows for greater flexibility, but it also requires a certain degree of data vulnerability. If information security is an important part of your corporate philosophy, collaborate with the IT department to properly secure and access data, and give remote workers the security tools and training they need.

If your company allows for remote working, you should have a policy in place. Remote working policies protect both you and your employees, and they set forth clear expectations. When drafting your policy, be clear and consistent without taking away any of the flexibility that makes remote working such a popular option—and once the policy is completed, be sure everyone knows what’s expected.