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04 Dec 2017

Modern tools facilitate trust between employers and employees

Teresa Badenhorst HR director of Ricoh SA
Business Process Services

Advanced technologies disrupt traditional views on flexi-work

Many companies avoided flexi-working in the past because they thought employees would be unproductive and unresponsive to customer needs. But things have changed. Now companies and the people who work for them have access to technologies that help them communicate and collaborate better than ever before.

Visual communication technologies help people communicate better than just speaking and definitely better than reading and writing e-mails and text messages. And today we have the bandwidth for our mobile smartphones, smart boards, projectors, tablets and laptops to make it feasible.

But people still need to collaborate around documents too. We create, collect, store, and share a great deal of business information in documents such as proofs of delivery (POD), invoices, delivery notes, production schedules and more. People need to be able to find those documents and get the information out of them for a number of reasons, including to be productive themselves and also to keep customers happy.

Other documents that keep people productive and collaborating are presentations, reports, project management sheets, spreadsheets, and more.

In flexi-working environments people need to be able to access and edit and often simultaneously collaborate on all of these documents while also communicating by voice, video, and text, in a single environment that provides seamless interconnectivity between digitalised devices.

That’s because people who are physically separated need to be even more connected to stay in touch.

Flexi-working appeals for many reasons. Employees are not forced into offices during peak hour traffic. Employees also have the opportunity to take care of important life matters, such as commitments with their children or medical check-ups, official administration, and other personal necessities of life.

Employers also benefit. They do not have to maintain large offices with assets to serve the needs of every single employee. They can rather reduce office floor plans and reduce overheads as a result, cut their asset register by eliminating desks, phones, and other office equipment associated with higher office-bound headcount, and reduce the financial strain of largely under-utilised resources. They can also, when the flexi environment is properly managed and catered for, improve customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and return on their employee investment.

But they need the right tools. Employees, flexi-worker or otherwise, must have the right technologies to support them while they are at home, when they are in the office, and when they are on the road or working away from any of their home or office bases.

Managers must still manage their employees, which requires suitable communication and collaboration. They need to be in touch with employees during office hours, regardless of where employees are, and they need to be able to interact and collaborate around documents.

Regular communication keeps people informed and engenders trust. Not every interaction needs to be a video call nor can every interaction be a WhatsApp message. There will be times when both – and all the varieties in between – are necessary to keep two geographically separated colleagues synchronised. Document collaboration aids the process yet further since reports and project management and presentations and other document types can keep them up to speed even when they aren't communicating directly.

Using the technologies to keep constantly in touch, across multiple touch-points, inspires the most crucial element of a flexi-working relationship: trust. When both managers and employees feel comfortable that they get the support they need and the productivity assistance to meet strategic objectives then everyone is happy.

Smart boards, projectors, smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs, printers, scanners, IP phones, instant messaging, and other digital technologies can seamlessly integrate the communications and collaboration necessary to prop up successful flexi working environments to the mutual benefit of employees and employers.

At the centre sit the digitalised devices, the humble printers and scanners and multifunction devices that bridge the paper, document world (digitalising analogue as well as creating physical output) with the digital world that includes the communication and collaboration devices which seamlessly connect people no matter where they are.

In my next blog I will address the systems that inform business processes that help employees to be productive and efficient. They are also, crucially, linked to the business systems that inform the business processes that help them be productive and efficient.

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