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Employment Today, HR Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Employment Today Magazine

Anywhere working

Providing the right work environment and HR support to empower a workforce to work from anywhere is one step towards breaking the chasm of gender inequality, says Gabrielle Cichero—to the benefit of all.

For decades, we’ve talked about creating gender equity through the empowerment of women in the workplace. Having children is a significant life milestone and one where the return-to-work equality gap has been noted in many studies. For example, a 2017 report released by the Ministry of Women, Empirical Evidence of the Gender Pay Gap in New Zealand, stated that the gap between what men and women are paid has barely shifted in the 14 years, even though today, on average, women are more qualified than men. The report also found that only about a fifth of the pay differential could be explained by variables like women taking a break from work and their career path to have children.

However, all this is changing with technology advances enabling more companies to offer flexible working. This is making it easier for women to return to work sooner after having children, if they wish, and thereby potentially narrowing the gender gap.

For too long, “flexible working” has been limited to being the ability to work from home or from the office. In The Changing World of Work, a Polycom global survey of more than 25,000 workers around the world, flexible working is becoming the basis for truly digitally-transformed businesses across all workers. After all, we have multiple generations in the workplace too.

Today, flexible working is evolving to include the concept of “anywhere, anytime working”. It’s about making your working hours as productive as possible, no matter your location of choice—a conference or huddle room, a local café, airport or choosing to live in an entirely different location to your workplace to achieve greater work-life balance. It also means providing flexibility equally within the workplace, regardless of whether your demographic is a working parent, Baby Boomer or Millennial.


Now it’s time for the conversation to extend beyond managing the needs of parents returning to work or “working mums”. Is it time to consider flexible working equality for all, regardless of gender, family commitments or stage of life?

At my workplace, I know we have crossed this gap. Recently, I attended a quarterly business review where a new baby was asleep in her father’s arms. We do these meetings by video, as it’s much more productive, so we could see exactly what was going on. More importantly, no one blinked, or thought the situation was unusual and business carried on as normal. Had my colleague, a new father, been unable to solve conflicting demands in this way, we would have lost his insight and intellect from the meeting. Instead, he could participate while also participating in childcare responsibilities—a key element to gender equality.

Modern workplaces need to empower both men and women to embrace a “work anywhere” ethos. When you achieve a workplace culture where it is considered business as usual for employees to balance work with family, further studies, hobbies, and other ambitions, it changes the dynamic of work for all employees, regardless of gender.

However, there is still more to be done. While Polycom’s survey found that nearly two-thirds of the global workforce take advantage of anywhere working, employees still have concerns about its impact. Does this flexibility mean employees would need to work longer hours? Would they still be considered equally for promotion? And, how can people build effective networks and relationships, which are considered key elements to career success?

Providing the right work environment and HR support to empower a workforce to work from anywhere is one step towards breaking the chasm of gender inequality—to the benefit of all.


Most business leaders will agree that technology can change how and where we work—when embraced in the right way. It continues to improve, making collaboration from anywhere possible with advanced noise reduction (great for reducing background noise like boisterous children, barking dogs or background chatter in a café), content sharing capabilities, and providing the same user experience regardless of device, location or scale.

For anywhere working to be successful, the right technology—particularly video collaboration—is crucial. The big difference for me has been working with high definition video. In today’s modern workplaces “close enough” is simply not good enough when business outcomes depend on being able to collaborate and work together effectively regardless of location. The Changing World of Work survey also found that 61 percent of respondents believed that having the right technology would solve any issues remote workers may face. Given my previous experience of working with low quality consumer-grade video, there is certainly a difference in the potential outcomes you can achieve, whether you want to ensure your communications are not lost in translation or you want to be assured of high quality and secure virtual meetings.

Video is recognised as a significant accelerator of relationship-building when it comes to anywhere working—a staggering 92 percent of our survey respondents agreed. In large countries like India or China, where teams are often geographically dispersed, the ability to build stronger human interactions are crucial to success.

For me personally, one of the added advantages of video technology is seeing people’s quirks and understanding them on a deeper level in our daily interactions. I can see when a team member is unwell, tired or enthusiastic about an idea. I also get to see their choice of décor and sometimes I’m lucky enough to get a glimpse into their family life! The only impact on my professional networks and relationships is making them deeper.


Anywhere working means just that. Leaders and companies can provide a work environment that is equally attractive to both men and women. This not only enables life choices, whether this is choosing to be on the job for 20 hours a day or staggering a working day to make time to attend a child’s concert or care for ailing parents. It retains talent and builds a culture of trust.

I’m often asked how I lead by example when it comes to encouraging anywhere working within my team. My marketing team is spread across Asia Pacific—from Australia and New Zealand up to China, Japan, South East Asia and Korea and west over to India, and they are all empowered to work how and where they want thanks to our daily use of technology. Our adoption of “anywhere working” retains talented people even if they choose to move cities and become a full-time remote worker like my director of campaign management did (see box)! It also means I can collaborate seamlessly with my peers in Europe and America.

In some cultures, being in the physical office is still seen as important, but anywhere working means that with the right support an employer can be a model of the way forward, should they choose. The key is that rewarding people shouldn’t be based on office hours, but measured on results and contribution, while encouraging them to find that same balance that you want to achieve as a leader. Providing more flexibility in work location without compromising on business results can help us cross the inequality chasm, which ultimately is liberating and valuable for all, regardless of gender.


Sharonika Camplin is director of Regional Campaign Management for Polycom Asia Pacific. She joined Polycom in 2007 as a senior marketing manager, based in North Sydney, but four years later, having met her partner in Cairns, she traded city life for a rainforest setting and became a full-time remote worker. There she took on a broader Asia Pacific role and inherited a regional team based in Singapore. Sharonika explains how anywhere working works for her.

In your experience, what are the biggest advantages of flexible working?

It’s said homeworkers are 40 percent more productive and I must agree. Since you don’t have the distractions of the office, you’re more focused on work, which surprises people. I’m often asked how I stay motivated or not end up in front of the TV (or fridge) all day. But for me and many others it’s the exact opposite. Anywhere working means I don’t waste time commuting—in the past this could be up to two hours a day. I stagger my work hours so I can drop the kids off at daycare by 9am and pick them up at 4pm, get through our usual family evening routines, and then get back to work later if required.

Do you ever feel like you miss out on working in an office?

Working from home requires discipline—a lot of it. I initially found my stress levels rising. There were some days I wouldn’t leave the house and realised that, besides my partner, I hadn’t spoken to another person that week except in a work meeting! I also felt some guilt about being able to work from home and live in an amazing place—and as a result, I worked even harder. So, I have learned a bit more about balance—staggering hours, working out of cafés, taking some time out to go for a walk or get a massage, talking to people. I get on video with close colleagues for a chat rather than just a meeting. I do miss the office environment, but for me the benefits of what I have and how I can plan my work around life are more important.

What are your essential tools for flexible working?

I don’t know how I would function without high quality video collaboration! This technology has helped me establish great relationships with colleagues around the world. This type of relationship-building would simply not happen if I couldn’t see them face to face! My essential tools consist of:

  • • 
    A dedicated office space. For me it’s in a separate unit on our property. Having your “office” on your dining table simply won’t work in the long run.
  • • 
    A standalone video unit. This helps a lot as I can have my laptop just for working on. It also integrates with my Outlook calendar which is super helpful as it alerts me to the next meeting and it’s a simple click to join.
  • • 
    Software video solutions if I decide to work elsewhere, such as a café or another part of the house (and a 4G modem as WIFI can be unreliable).
  • • 
    Two monitors, for ease of moving between applications.
  • • 
    Skype for Business for instant messaging with my colleagues and checking if they are available is important too. It allows me to get quick answers or set up an impromptu discussion.
  • • 
    A task list, whether its physical or online is very helpful, especially when you have many projects on the go and a virtual team to manage.

What advice would you give others looking to pursue remote working?

The first consideration is the culture of the organisation and how open your manager is to flexible working. Not every job will be suited so it’s important to recognise this. Secondly, be as open as possible with your manager. I have full-time homeworkers and others who work part of the time at home in my team. They’re open about how they work and I am very accepting of how they choose to work. When I decided to work from home, I told my manager 12 months in advance—this gave her the ability to adjust for this. Thirdly I truly believe if you are a committed high-performer, the company will support you and you can create a role best suited to remote working full-time or for some of the time.

GABRIELLE CICHERO is senior director of marketing for Polycom Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ). When she’s not in the office, her preferred work locations are anywhere there is great internet, good coffee, and comfortable chairs.

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