Telecommuting Is in the Spotlight, but What Is It?
Many companies are devoting considerable resources to transforming their employees’ work styles. During November 2015, designated “Telecommuting Month” by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there was an upsurge of interest in exploring new work styles.
These new approaches place the individual at the center, which is itself a revolutionary development in working in Japan. It is important to create a corporate culture that attracts the best and brightest talent, and provide a working environment that encourages the retention of a diverse and talented workforce. The aging population structure and declining birthrate are leading to problems such as worsening shortages of young people of working age as well as parenting and elderly care challenges, all of which contribute to an environment where it is much harder to retain talented workers.
One initiative that is underway is the introduction of telecommuting, a more flexible approach that allows each and every employees to use in a way that suits their lifestyle smart devices, other modern communication tools and VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)* to work in a flexible way no matter what the time or place.
* VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)
VDI is virtual desktop environments, including client OS and applications that run on the OS, that is centralized on a server and are accessed via a network. Local devices function solely as a monitor to display the outcomes of processing and execution performed by the server, and does not retain data.
On November 19, 2015, Fujitsu held a seminar on the latest developments in the telecommuting space and Fujitsu VDI solutions that deliver real benefits to industry. This article provides a brief overview of the seminar.
Telecommuting Boosts Both Personal and Team Performance
The seminar began with an address from Nagako Kobayashi, Deputy Director of the Nikkei BP Innovation ICT Research Institute, on how flexible workplace practices can maximize the performance of both individuals and teams.
She opened by explaining that flexible workplace practices can take many different forms including: the “free address” approach, designed to stimulate communication and that does not require workers to occupy fixed locations; Internet conferencing, which allows meetings to be conducted from multiple locations simultaneously; and telecommuting, which allows employees to work when and where it suits them. Telecommuting in particular has been embraced by industry, prompted in no small part by recent advances in ICT in tandem with government incentives.
She noted a number of issues exist in regards to telecommuting, such as: it makes it harder for managers to manage; it erodes the teamwork ethic; and it reduces the relevance of systems and structures. She then presented a number of real-life examples showing how these issues can be addressed. Ms. Kobayashi concluded the presentation by emphasizing the need for every business to understand the ROI of telecommuting to their organization.
Fujitsu Telecommuting Solutions
The next speaker was Hidehiko Satake, Senior Manager of the Personnel and Planning Division, who presented on mobile working and telecommuting solutions at Fujitsu.
Fujitsu introduced a work-from-home program in FY2010 in a bid to improve employee retention rates by providing greater workplace flexibility. He stated that future Fujitsu initiatives will need coordination between rules and procedures, ICT and facilities, noting that a tripartite approach would be required in order to boost the overall performance of the organization, with each and every employee working more efficiently and with greater autonomy.
He described two successful telecommuting initiatives at Fujitsu. The first is the Sales Division, where employees have been given tablets that enable more effective presentations while also allowing them to check emails and orders while traveling directly between their homes and client offices. The other is the SE Division, where employees are permitted to work from home on development and administration tasks directly before and after business trips. It has been argued these initiatives benefit both the employee and the employer by making life easier for employees with children or elderly relatives. At the same time, he stated there are certainly issues that will need to be addressed, such as it can be difficult to find specific benefits of telecommuting, while concerns have also been raised about the extent of the negative impact on those who are required to remain in the office.
Mr. Satake finished his presentation by nominating better communication as one of the key tenets of work style innovation that is designed to promote the creation of new value, particularly with regards to communication within the organization and with clients, as well as in a cross-industry manner.
VDI Telecommuting Solutions
The second half of the seminar featured a presentation from Kazuhiro Yoshida, Senior Manager of the No. 2 Business Department at the Fujitsu Mobile Initiative Center, on how to efficiently implement telecommuting with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).
One of the biggest concerns at companies pushing forward with telecommuting is security, given that it often involves taking sensitive data out of the workplace. Another major concern is the complexity of managing the increasingly diverse range of devices used by employees. VDI is a server-based virtual client environment for executing tasks that would normally be performed by employees on office computers. With VDI, the local computer or device becomes merely a display to which the environment is delivered and that does not retain any data. Since data is not stored locally there is no security risk in the event the device is lost or stolen. Employees can use VDI to access their familiar office desktop environment from any thin client, tablet or other device, allowing them to perform their work without being constrained by the security requirements of the workplace.
As another telecommuting case study, Mr. Yoshida also described Fujitsu’s internal solution, known as the “Global Communication Platform,” which features groupware integration, voice and video conferencing, social networking and video sharing. The platform was launched in January 2012 and is being rolled out incrementally.
December 2013 saw the introduction of an internal virtual desktop environment that allowed Sales and Field SE staff and others who are frequently away from the office, to have wireless access to the Global Communication Platform and internal systems from a computer or tablet device at any time. The virtual desktop environment effectively eliminated security issues while providing employees with a secure and reliable means of accessing internal systems, even from a home computer. It has also proved an excellent way to promote knowledge sharing within the organization that bridges the conventional barriers between departments as well as hierarchical constraints. This experience suggests that an incremental roll-out of VDI would be an attractive option for businesses that are keen to embrace this new technology.
Fujitsu is championing telecommuting as a new solution that helps employees to achieve a better work-life balance by allowing them to work from anywhere.
Providing greater flexibility around work practices has benefits for each and every employee, as well as employers. Fujitsu remains committed to promoting flexible workplace practices that encourage all employees to maximize their potential and live rich and fulfilling lives.