Innovation & Operation: Where’s your office? Or does it matter?

Mar 22, 2013 7:29 am   |   Leave a Comment

There is a cult of innovation, in which “businesses throw around the term to show they’re on the cutting edge of everything from technology and medicine to snacks and cosmetics,” according to a Wall St. Journal article, “You Call That Innovation?“, published last year.

We believe in innovation, and Avistar has been pushing the boundaries of videoconferencing for a long time.

But we also believe that companies can’t live by innovation alone.

That holds true even for the icon of American innovation: Apple. When launched, much of Apple’s technology is startling new and innovative. But if Apple were only an innovation machine, it might not be around, if not flourishing. It’s ability to promote, market, distribute, service, maintain and then innovate again makes it the company it is today. The point here: innovation is just one part of Apples success. It’s operation and the the ability to sustain it innovation is the bigger story.

In any business, there are times we do need to be together. Innovation is important, and the necessary collaboration is often best done in group settings – which is one reason Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer has ordered all employees who had worked from home must, as of June 2013, work from a Yahoo office.

But there are times when people don’t necessarily have to be together. Companies need to focus on their operations. And clearly, employees can be more productive and efficient working wherever they work best. That may not necessarily be the office. It could be a client site, in a hotel while on business travel, or at the home office.

The benefits to working remotely include:

  • Increased productivity by eliminating often maddening commutes and in-office distractions.
  • Increased flexibility that allows employees to work on a varied schedule, which often leads to the employee working longer hours, but that sort of flexibility improves morale. And an employee with good morale is motivated to be more productive, which is only a good thing for the company.
  • Reduced office costs because companies don’t necessarily need office space for each employee.
  • Stronger employee retention, more creative thinking and less overall stress

Businesses should evaluate whether it is important that their employees work in an office or can benefit from working remotely. Part of the equation should be: “Can I hire the best employee locally or the best employee no matter where he or she is located?”

Companies should also take a look at their business’ innovation verses its operations. With the exception of certain “creative industries” (like advertising), most companies require a greater focus on operations to be successful. And there are probably more efficient ways than forcing people to commute to a central location and being in one office when at the end of the day, they’re just running an operation and they don’t need to necessarily directly collaborate.

At Avistar, a lot of our employees work from our San Mateo headquarters. But it’s also true that a lot of our employees, including members of the management team, work remotely. We find that the blend of local and remote working make our operation much more efficient, productive and of course, creative. That said, we frequently need to be together to support the innovation process, work on complex problems or just celebrate a great accomplishment. But we find that balance and because of it, we have a motivated, productive and creative workforce. That can’t be said for many other companies in our space.

We think the nature of work as well as the future of the office will continue to generate discussion this year – much more so than in recent years. And despite moves like Yahoo’s to ban remote working, we think businesses will rely increasingly on technologies that allow employees to work where they need to work. Cloud computing, BYOD and videoconferencing are enabling people to work the way they want to work. They can work in a central location when innovation is important and they can work remotely when they need to focus on operations, and still be productive and connected.

This is a case where the world is changing around us. If we embrace and leverage this change, our companies will be stronger, more profitable and generally better places to work.  That sounds like a recipe for success.

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About Avistar Communications

Avistar is an innovation leader in the unified visual communications industry, with more than 15 years of experience providing proven business-class desktop videoconferencing technology. Avistar's solutions are used across a broad spectrum of industries with deployments ranging in size from 30-35,000 users. Avistar's technology also helps to power solutions from Citrix, IBM, LifeSize, Logitech and many other leading unified communications vendors, while delivering end-user videoconferencing solutions to some of the world's largest corporations, in more than 40 countries. For more information, please visit

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