IT tools can bridge the remote divide

Several years ago CEOs and IT executives were debating the pros and cons of telework.

Today it’s harder than ever to argue that telework is bad for employees and employers. Firms with solid telework plans don’t need to fret over transit strikes, wicked winter weather, or a shortage of affordable office space. Remote security, while not perfect, is much more sophisticated than in the past. And broadband continues to grow in reach and speed.

Where companies are still falling down, as discussed in one of our front-page stories this issue, is in the area of communication. The lion’s share of the responsibility in ensuring effective communication with employees belongs to the employees’ managers.

But network administrators can also play an important role by promoting technologies that improve communications with remote employees.

One obvious technology candidate for improving remote communications is instant messaging. It allows employees to reach one another more quickly than e-mail and when included as part of a unified communications package, IM applications enable workers to see when other co-workers are available, on the phone, or out of the office.

While relatively painless to implement, IM does have implications in terms of compliance and some enterprises will be forced to save, store and archive IM communications, just as they do e-mail.

A step up from IM are whiteboard technologies that allow remote workers to add their input to a common project.

At the peak of the remote technology mountain is videoconferencing. Since a good part of social interaction is non-verbal, videoconferencing has some definite advantages in improving remote communication. However, it also has drawbacks in terms of equipment cost and increased bandwidth usage.

Some network managers might look at remote work programs as nothing but a headache. But with the right technology and a good plan, telework programs are an ideal opportunity for the network department to shine.

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