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24. Workflow

While immersion in a thriving hybrid reality work environment requires a certain amount of letting go, it also enables managers to become conductors of a collaborative orchestra instead of simply keeping track of workers who have taken on the responsibility of managing their own work schedules.

Virtual work isn’t about working more or less hours, but rather working with more focus during customized hours to make space for balance between work and life. In a streamlined virtual work environment, evidence abounds of completed tasks, and mindful managers can more easily keep track of processes and projects as they unfold collaboratively.

Virtual work requires agility and a mix of platforms and tools that may or may not include three-dimensional, immersive virtual environments in which the experience of sharing space is preserved. Groups that are geographically dispersed can have efficient workflow across time zones when working virtually, which collapses the amount of time required for a group to complete a shared task.

The idea of the worker constantly tethered to a hand-held device for after-hour missives from the boss is countered by the flexibility of being able to take a sick child to a mid-day doctor’s appointment without having to take time off work, or just to take a couple of hours off the clock knowing that the time can be made up later.

In 2009, Cisco first announced the findings of its Teleworker Survey, an in-depth study of almost 2,000 company employees. The study, conducted to evaluate the social, economic and environmental impacts associated with telecommuting at Cisco, revealed that a majority of respondents experienced a significant increase in work-life flexibility, productivity and overall satisfaction as a result of their ability to work remotely. More recently, in March 2011, Cisco released the results of their International Education Survey, which focuses on “student employability and preparation for networked economy“.

Managing carbon emissions and retaining vibrant talent were two of the top reasons why Cisco adopted an aggressive telecommuting approach. With 40 percent of respondents not living in the same city as their direct managers, telecommuting makes sense.

According to Cisco’s Internet Business Services Group, the company’s global strategic consulting arm, the company has generated an estimated annual savings of $277 million in productivity by adopting telecommuting. Cisco, with a strong presence in virtual environments such as Second Life, where the company hosts a large annual conference among other activities, is a powerful example of the innovation that occurs once virtual work is underway.

TelePresence, Cisco’s face-to-face collaboration process, allows collaborators to share an augmented space in the physical world despite geographical dispersion.

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