Roadblocks to business continuity come in all shapes and sizes – natural disasters that threaten to close businesses for weeks, difficulty attracting and retaining productive and efficient employees, or simply the inability to gain access to information or collaborate with coworkers thousands of miles away. Through implementing social collaboration technologies, organizations maintain business continuity, attract smarter, better workers, and have the opportunity to function with more flexibility in a secure environment.

According to a recent Microsoft Work Without Walls survey, information workers (IW) within financial services, manufacturing, professional services and retail/hospitality industries showed overwhelming support for social collaboration technologies and remote working options. More so, employees are asking for this new world of work, with survey respondents stating they prefer working remotely nine days per month on average. 

Implementing technologies that keep things running smoothly despite industry-specific barriers can keep a company’s doors open and preserve business continuity in an increasingly unpredictable marketplace and world. Here are a few examples: 

  • Financial Services
    • Working with a colleague one desk away can be challenging enough… working with peers spread across disparate global offices adds another layer of complexity.  According to the findings, 30 percent of financial service IWs felt hindered by the inability to speak face-to-face when working across locations.  To address this issue, financial institution Morgan Keegan & Company is using Microsoft Lync for collaboration and online meetings, across 300 locations in 19 states. With this solution, the company expects a 20-30 percent increase in productivity.
  • Manufacturing
    • IWs surveyed in manufacturing named lack of response time as one of their top three issues when working with colleagues in various locations.  With disperse plants, clients and global suppliers, telework technologies enable manufacturers to be responsive to their clients and colleagues regardless of location.  For example, Boeing’s implementation of Lync increased communication options for employees around the globe and as an added bonus, Boeing expects the costs for third-party audio conferencing to decrease by 15 to 20 percent.

  • Professional Services:

    • With the need for experienced workers to be not only available to their firms, but also to their clients, working from anywhere is becoming an industry standard.  In fact, 80 percent of professional services IWs surveyed stated their bosses support telework and social collaboration. Employees at Black & Veatch, an engineering, construction and consulting company, are often required to work in offices at the partners’ or clients’ sites.  After implementing a Unified Communications solution, the company was able to help its new type of workforce remain productive and efficient and extend its global reach.

  • Retail / Hospitality
    • Many retailers count on millenials (those born between 1980-2000) as their face to the customer. The biggest productivity killer though, for new breed of employee is often the outdated technology in the store environment, which they are happy to gripe about on social networks.  This could be why 27 percent of Retail IWs surveyed, know someone who has been terminated or reprimanded for social media use.  Retailer Pacific Sunwear found that by outfitting its young employees with the latest technologies that they intuitively understand – internal corporate social network tools and web-based portals – reduced training costs, enhanced employee engagement, and led to better customer service, increased job satisfaction and reduced employee turnover.

On the flip side, some survey respondents revealed some significant concerns with the effectiveness of remote working – the two biggest concerns across industries being a lack of face-to-face time with colleagues and difficulty getting quick responses from colleagues. With the proper technology in place, though, businesses can easily surmount these issues. For example, Microsoft solutions such as Office 365, Lync, SharePoint 2010, Windows Phone 7 and Unified Communications allow workers to effectively and quickly collaborate across boundaries.

Although more than three quarters of information workers (77 percent) say their company provides access to technology support for telework and social collaboration, only 57 percent say their company has a formal policy to telework policy. With support from all angles and a clear advantage, businesses need to fully engage this new world of work to support continuity no matter the situation and provide their workers with the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime.

For more information, download the full survey results, specific to industry, below.  To find out how remote working solutions benefits small businesses, feel free to visit the Official Microsoft Blog.