May 02 2012

Voice and Video Chat Help Teleworkers Simulate The Water Cooler

How agencies are helping employees build trust and teamwork remotely.

One concern commonly expressed about telework is that it offers workers less of an opportunity to bond as they can in an office environment through interactions such as chatting at the water cooler or over a cubicle wall. Such interactions can build trust and teamwork.

But agencies are taking steps to address this concern. The General Services Administration, for example, uses voice- and video conferencing software to keep workers connected, says GSA’s Jim LeVerso. Seeing a coworker’s image and being able to chat regularly can help form the bond that office workers enjoy.

“We get that it’s not a piece of cake to work from home remotely, so we do what we can to replicate that water cooler,” LeVerso says. “We’re looking at a number of technologies.”

Video conferencing also helps save travel time and expenses. LeVerso lives and works in Boston but attends regular staff meetings in Washington remotely.

DISA also uses collaboration software to help teleworkers stay in touch. “It’s real-time communication,” says the agency’s Bobbie Sanders. “It allows our teleworkers to stay in touch and stay engaged with the workers in the office. So we feel like they stay connected, and it’s a great telework enhancement.”

The collaboration tool is also great for supervisors, who can use it to communicate with their entire team whether workers are in the office or at home, she says.

Read more about the benefits of telework.

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