Presented by Cisco Webex

The Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 work paradigm broke about a decade ago when smartphone adoption became widespread. The impact has accelerated over the last five years, ushering in an era of hyper mobility and the evolution of the distributed workforce.

The more sophisticated communication technology gets, the faster we move away from the centralized, hierarchical office model. The perception of work has shifted from “butts in seats” to outcome-driven approaches that are delivering major advantages to companies and employees alike. In fact, cloud-based project management and virtual teams are quickly becoming the norm: Over 16% of companies worldwide hire only remote teams.

Significant advantages for employees and companies alike

The flexible new work style goes a long way toward solving the work/life balance challenge that’s arisen in the modern world. Not only can employees tackle work challenges when they’re on the go, they can work when they’re most productive, and have access to their teams and their projects whenever insight or opportunity strikes. And the uptick in productivity, when employees are working more communicatively and collaboratively, offers a $900 billion to $1.3 trillion value to the economy.

A remote workforce delivers a number of advantages to small and growing companies; talent can be sourced from anywhere in the world, and at price points that work for both the company and the employee. The snowballing cost of maintaining a physical work location is dramatically diminished. A company can grow seamlessly, when employees are virtual and with significantly lower cost to onboard. Remote employees with flexible life and workstyles increase their productivity by 13%, and take fewer sick days and breaks.

Unsurprisingly, 98% of respondents in a 24,000-employee survey said “anywhere working” has impacted their productivity powerfully. A company will save, on average, $11,000 per person, per year, when their workers are connecting virtually at least 50% of the time.

The evolution of collaboration technology

There are abundant resources available to help companies manage and grow a remote workforce. Gartner reports a massive uptick in tools like messaging, messaging platforms, and video calling over the past five years, and predicts that the worldwide market for workplace collaboration tools will grow from an estimated $2.7 billion in 2018 to $4.8 billion by 2023, or nearly double in size.

“You want the best people to be able to work with each other, even if they don’t physically fit in the same office, or even in the same time zone,” says Cory Treffiletti, Global Head of Marketing for Webex and Collab Demand Gen at Cisco.

As always, face-to-face connection is essential to maintain team bonds — and a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an email, and spoken words account for only 7% of a conversation’s intent, while body language and tone of voice convey 55% and 38% of that meaning.

That’s why video conferencing has become the foundation of the distributed workforce. It brings entire teams together in real time to hold meetings, brainstorm, and make decisions. And unlike audio-only meetings — where it’s easy for attendees to divide their attention, looking at other screens and tuning out — employees stay more engaged when video is involved. Video calls also play a key role in reducing the cost of business by replacing the majority of business travel.

The next generation of collaboration tools

Today, video calls are just table stakes. The next generation of collaboration technology brings several tools together under one umbrella, enabling employees to share and collaborate on documents in real time, such as Cisco Webex solutions. Workers need to be able to access tools like live virtual whiteboarding, and be able to save those documents and share them with extended teams, whether or not they are able to join the conversation at the scheduled time.

The ability to have all this under one application is important.  No more needing to stitch together any of the multiple tools for both desktops and mobile that are exploding into the market.  You can have those capabilities available and built into one suite of tools.  This is the next fundamental change in the world of work, Treffiletti says.

To take advantage of the opportunities a distributed workforce offers, companies need to know that their virtual sharing and collaboration tools are easily accessible, and be confident that they’re going to work all the time, whether they’re on mobile or desktop, or a technology stack installed at company headquarters.

Cognitive collaboration powered by AI

Virtual collaboration solutions underpinned by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation can reduce the noise of the daily workday.

Artificial intelligence can enable virtual assistants that can, for instance, understand an employee’s calendar and proactively surface important tasks and meetings as they arise. An AI-powered virtual assistant can capture action items, along with the meeting notes it takes, and deliver them to the attendees afterward, or push them directly into workflows, like project management tools and to-do lists. It can even independently schedule follow-ups and reminders, and invite a team to the next collaboration meeting in a week.

“We live and operate in a world right now where, in most cases, the technology has been distracting to people in meetings,” says Treffiletti. “We’re starting to see the pendulum shift to a point where the technology is becoming supplemental, allowing people to focus more in a conversation, focus on the collaboration, and feel confident that the key points from those conversations will be extracted and saved to be used later.”

An AI-powered virtual collaboration tool can also capture moments where collaboration is spontaneous and unexpected. The technology can immediately record a conversation that’s happening on the fly, in order to be shared with extended team members, so they don’t miss out on the content and the context of that conversation.

This kind of collaboration is powerful; a worker who feels fully embedded in a collaborative team stays on task 64% longer than those who work alone, and are more motivated as they take on challenges.

“When companies foster collaboration through their teams and provide a more flexible workplace, they create an environment where the employees feel as though they are supported by the company and given the tools they need to be successful,” Treffiletti. “This kind of work, and the tools that support it, are a fundamental change that will continue to have profound impact as the distributed workforce continues to evolve.”

Sponsored articles are content produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. Content produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact