Workers are spending increased amounts of time working remotely, either on projects or for accessing meetings, such as through online conferencing and collaboration services. New innovations include virtual, augmented and mixed reality.
Remote working is growing in popularity. This is driven by advances in mobile technology and ever-increasing broadband speeds. Technologies include telepresence robots, chat apps, video conference, and other unified communication channels. The net effect is that businesses do not need to be restricted by location, and employees can interact with each other worldwide.
One downside of remote working is a sense of isolation. Telepresence robots can be helpful in this area, allowing or virtual “presence” regardless of how far an employee may be. A telepresence robot is a computer controlled robot consisting of a video-camera, screen, speakers and microphones. The aim is so that people interacting with the robot can view and hear its operator, while the operator can simultaneously view what the robot is “looking” at and “hearing.”
With newer technologies, virtual reality and augmented reality are starting to make an impact on how people work in terms of collaboration, as well as generating new, creative approaches for achieving business objectives. For example, virtual reality can help to bring teams together, from different locations, as if they were in one meeting room.
Augmented reality, while still in its infancy, holds the promise of transforming business interactions. For instance, a review by Information Age suggests that a team member could be viewing a presentation at a meeting, including some key statistics, while their augmented glasses are displaying additional supporting information about what is being discussed in the meeting.
Within this arena, Microsoft has developed the HoloLens headset, a self-contained, holographic computer, enabling users to engage with digital content. This serves as a powerful, inclusive computing system based on the Windows 10 infrastructure. The device can be incorporated with existing Windows programs and tools like Office, OneDrive or Skype.
Connecting together in meetings is of importance. Here the leading connectivity providers in the world of online conferencing and collaboration services include Cisco WebEx and Skype for Business. While the technology selected is important, in terms of reliability, sound and vision quality, training employees how to use the service and getting their buy-in is equally important. Here user adoption is just as important as the specifying and deployment of the service.
While the technological innovations described are important, a supporting workplace culture for remote working is important. Once established, the use of remote working can help to recruit high-performing employees. Millennials, for example, put a greater emphasis on work-life balance, and expect to work flexibly. Jobs offering this form of access are likely to help to attract the leading lights from this generation.