A very interesting blog post by Scott Edinger on the Harvard Business Review titled Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged, which found in reviewing the results of a 360-degree feedback process that employees who work remotely were more engaged, more committed to their work, and rated the same leader higher then peer employees who work in the office. The reasons remote workers are more engaged comes down to culture and technology. Culture in that remote workers and managers put more effort into staying connected, while in-office workers take being connected for granted based on proximity and ease of communications with managers. Furthermore, remote workers are more apt to take advantage of different technologies to stay connected with their managers.
I belong to a group of workers that are a hybrid of the two. Sometimes I work remotely, other times I work in my primary office location. The size of the Cisco San Jose Main Campus means being in the office doesn't necessarily mean being at your desk. I may be presenting or meeting in other buildings without time to commute to my primary office location. Cisco has extra work areas in each building that are fully equipped with a desk and phone where I may spend several hours working because I don't have the needed 10 minutes to return to my primary office. I'm able to authenticate with any phone and make it my own; my number, my shortcuts, my information. Even though my location and work environment are different, how people connect and communicate with me remains the same. My location is irrelevant, aside from time zone differences.
During my day to day activities, I work with people located in various places worldwide. At Cisco, we've had a culture of using video for years. I'm amazed at how many forms of video we have available to us. As a group, we consistently use Cisco TelePresence for conferencing. During a staff meeting a couple weeks ago I counted 17 different locations participating. Some were in other Telepresence rooms, some were at their desks, and some were participating from their home office. Often times, we use Cisco WebEx Meetings to conference which is video enabled showing the participants and who's speaking. Many of our telephones are video enabled, so direct calls to individuals or conference bridges allow us to see whom we're speaking with. Finally, the Cisco Jabber client is video enabled as well and supported on a variety of platforms making use of the built-in camera, or for a greater quality video a Cisco TelePresence PrecisionHD camera can be used.
On more then one occasion I've run into people on campus that I've previously only talked with on video. Even though it was a chance meeting we immediately recognized each other and talked as if we had worked together in the same location for quite some time. Just last week I ran into a colleague from Norway and after chatting for a bit we came to realize it was the first time we'd ever met in person. Yet, through our conversations over video, we were instantly familiar with one another.
When you augment these experiences with other capabilities such as presence to understand who's available and how best to reach them, you can see how workers, local and global, are more engaged with each other then ever before. Henry, a coworker that sits next to me has an idea for a "virtual bump", but I'll save that for another time and post. Are you feeling engaged with remote workers? If so, how? If not, what can be done to become more engaged with your fellow employees? Do you also see using these capabilities to be more engaged outside your enterprise with partners and customers? Tell us what's working and what's not working.