When I was asked to write this blog post, I must admit I was hesitant at first. Writing a blog is an intensive process that often requires extensive research, multiple rounds of revision and, above all, collaboration with team members to pool knowledge to deliver a professional-looking final product.
Key here is the part about working with team members. I’ve been a member of the Konica Minolta team for 7 years now but my position requires me to work remotely up to 90% of the time; while I call Montreal home, my colleagues in the marketing department are all based out of Mississauga, Ontario, making a daily commute to the office a bit of a hassle, to say the least.
However, remote work isn’t as strange or uncommon as it once was. A study conducted earlier this year found that 70% of professionals today work remotely at least once per week, while 53% of professionals work remotely half the week. This has been made possible thanks to the digital revolution and, more specifically, online webinar tools like Cisco WebEx.
But sometimes, and despite the use of teleconferencing services, there’s something to be said for the more natural interactions that come from having a “physical” presence in the office. For employees like myself however, being physically present just isn’t an option 100% of the time.
Thankfully, there is a solution – telepresence robots!
In Two Places at Once
Telepresence robots foster closer collaboration between remote and non-remote workers by giving you an artificial physical presence in the workplace. Essentially, telepresence robots allow you to be in two places at once – Newton be damned!
Konica Minolta currently has access to 10 telepresence robots which are scattered across the country in various branch locations. The tool is easy to use and can best be thought of as an iPad on wheels. A user attaches a tablet to the top of a 15-lb mono-wheel unit and then, using the device’s corresponding mobile application or web browser interface, the remote worker controls the movement of the device right from their phone, tablet or computer. The iPad “head” serves as the device’s eyes and ears, live-streaming audio and video to the remote user, while also displaying the face and projecting audio to those who interact with the device. Finally, all the telepresence robots are managed from an online fleet management tool which allows for 24/7 tracking and visibility of the robots’ performance, functionality, and geo-location.
Here are some of the potential benefits for businesses:
- Eliminate travel costs for remote workers entirely;
- Gain access to talent and human capital from around the globe, without the immense financial and temporal costs of relocation;
- Retain talent who relocate to other parts of the country or to international destinations;
- Remote workers can remain in the loop on day-to-day activities around the office.
What Are My Options?
There are several options on the market today for telepresence robots, but Konica Minolta uses the Double 2 from Double Robotics. This unit is one of the more advanced offerings in this space, and includes features like:
- Remotely-available height controls, allowing the user to always remain at eye level;
- Lateral Stability Control (LSC) maintains stability while traversing common office or classroom obstacles like cords, thresholds between rooms, etc.;
- Power Drive capabilities allow Double 2 to go 80% faster when traversing long distances;
- An optional camera kit with a 150-degree wide-angle lens that increases the field of view by 70% on each side and allows users to take 5-megapixel photos;
- Optional audio kit amplifies speaker and directional microphone for noisier, or louder environments;
- Optional wireless charging dock ensures the Double 2 is always online and available for use.
In the end, it comes down to whether you value being physically present in the office. I can tell you, as an almost full-time remote-worker, the Double 2 has made interaction and collaboration with my coworkers much easier, ultimately improving my productivity as an employee. After all, work is not where you are – it’s what you get done!
Welcome to the workplace of the future. It’s happening today at Konica Minolta!