Polycom and featured in the May eNewsletter.">

Building Face to Face Collaboration and Trust in Today’s Geographically Dispersed Business World

by: Andy Miller, CEO of Polycom

The topics of telecommuting and remote workforces have never been more hotly discussed than they are today. On the heels of Yahoo Inc. and Best Buy Co. ending their long-standing remote worker programs and requiring employees to start working regularly from a local office, a debate is raging in the press, across social media, and in HR and executive circles over whether employees should come into the office or be allowed to work from home.

The discussion is not new, but the decisions by Yahoo and Best Buy have put it back on center stage for both managers and employees. People on both sides of the debate voice valid concerns and support for their arguments for or against these decisions:

  • Remote workers may live too far away to drive to the nearest office, or need time during the day to care for family members.
  • Managers may feel that workers are more productive and engaged when they are working in the same location, face to face. They may also include “visibility” as a factor in promotions and compensation adjustments.

Missing the Bigger Picture
This debate is being framed in black and white terms: Should employees be required to come into an office, or should employers allow the option to work from home? Seems simple, but so far the debate is too narrow—missing the bigger picture, and overlooking some important discussions that could solve the problem for both sides.

The current focus on working from home or in the office—and how that impacts productivity—is only one piece of a bigger puzzle. The conversation should be about people working from anywhere.  What if an employee works from the Kansas City office, while the rest of her team is based in Palo Alto, or London? What about distributed engineering teams, like the 1,200 engineers at Polycom, who are based in multiple countries across a dozen time zones?

We need to have an open discussion about the real issues we face as managers and employees trying to run a business: getting the most from a workforce through collaboration. Rich, meaningful collaboration between organizations, companies and people around the word leads to greater trust, higher productivity and greater return on investment.

Why Telework?
Like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, I am also the CEO of a publicly-traded technology company based in Silicon Valley, and I am very aware of both the tremendous advantages—and potential pitfalls—of flexible work programs for remote workers. Virtually every company in the Valley, including Polycom, and the majority of our customers, has some form of remote worker program—telework, telecommuting, work from home, etc.—in place and in use.

The goals for these programs can be as different as the companies themselves:

  • Attract a larger talent pool by reaching beyond physical borders
  • Speed productivity and time to market by making decisions in trusted, face-to-face meetings
  • Retain top talent by giving them flexible options to balance professional and personal commitments
  • Recapture time and costs associated with travel, especially for internal meetings.

Many companies around the world reap tremendous, measurable benefits from these programs. In fact, in Fortune magazine’s recent “100 Best Companies to Work For 2013” list, 84 of the 100 companies listed offered telecommuting benefits for employees.

The Power of Visual Collaboration
There are numerous tools and technologies available to tie remote and onsite employees together for greater productivity, including video conferencing, instant messaging, email, conference phones, Web-based presentations and digital whiteboards.  Each of these tools brings greater connectivity to employees, and engenders greater communication. But none of them, by themselves, accomplish the much more complex task, beyond communication, of building trusted teams that collaborate face-to-face both in and out of the office.

Companies are getting results not just from having the right technology, but by embracing collaboration—specifically visual collaboration—as part of their culture and management approach, and by using that cultural blueprint to identify the tools and resources they need to meet their business goals.

Read the full article, including how collaboration impacts your bottom line.