Current technology—and increasing demand—are making flexible work schedules and working from home more common. Many companies have responded with a range of options to accommodate their employees yet some are still struggling with how to manage this shifting work environment while also maintaining a thriving and productive office life.
The executive education program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management has come up with an interesting solution. Peter Hirst, the program’s executive director, first saw “work robots” at a conference last fall and was immediately intrigued. He believes these robots help connect workers at home to the office environment.
Hirst says the robots, which his department started using earlier this year, have been very successful thus far. Most of the team’s 35 employees work remotely at least two days a week. Home-based workers, in addition to desktop video conferencing and chat clients, can use a robot, which looks a lot like an iPad attached to a stick on wheels.
While this might sound like basic video conferencing, the robot can actually be controlled and moved around the office by the remote employees, creating opportunities for collaboration as well as socializing.
“We’ve found that the robots actually help our remote employees feel more present and that those in the office treat that person like they’re physically there, too, as opposed to videoconferencing,” says Hirst.
The Sloan department currently has two robots and is in the process of purchasing at least one more. They are now experimenting with enabling people to participate remotely in their on-campus executive education courses using the robots. Although it’s too soon to say if this will become a widespread implementation at Sloan or MIT, it’s promising to see an option at work that helps use technology in a way that can improve work-life balance while benefitting employees and employers.
See the story in Business Insider.